Martin is a Cambridgeshire County Councillor and Fenland District Councillor, an active school Governor for over 10 years, and is on the candidates list. He also runs Spin Blog.
For some time I have been of the opinion that testing at Key Stage 1 (KS1) and Key Stage 3 (KS3) has lost all merit. So I suppose it is about time that I put my thoughts in writing in the hope of stimulating some sort of debate within the party.
First, it is important that I set the scene. At the moment there are four points where testing is carried out in schools. The first is at the end of the 3rd year in Primary School at the age of 7 (the period up to here is known as Key Stage 1). Historically this was the transition from Infant to Junior School; whilst this still happens in some situations, in the vast majority of cases the child now stays in the same school. The second test is at the end of Key Stage 2 (KS2); the point when the vast majority of children leave primary education and move into Secondary school (at 11 years old). This test is the most important measurement and the one which experts and the media alike pay most attention to. The DfES use these results to produce a set of statistics called PANDA (which stands for Performance and Assessment). At KS2 this measures the amount of progress that a school’s pupils have made since KS1, comparing progress against schools of a similar type.
In the secondary sector, testing is carried out at the end of Year 9, just before students begin their GCSE courses. The fourth test is of course GCSEs.
I believe the Conservatives were absolutely right to introduce testing; at the time there was very little knowledge of individual achievement nor of how much progress schools as a whole were making. But that situation has changed and schools are now using assessment processes to monitor achievement at group and individual level extremely effectively. I think this shows that testing has worked.