Children, Schools and Families Committee

13 May 2008


The inappropriate use of national testing could lead to damaging consequences for the education system and, most particularly, for children, says a report published today (13 May 2008) by the Children, Schools and Families Committee.

The Committee's report on Testing and Assessment says that the principle of national testing is sound, but expresses serious concerns about the over-emphasis on the importance of national tests.

A single set of tests cannot validly achieve all of the purposes for which they are being used. The purposes of testing must be prioritised and an assessment made to establish the extent to which the tests meet the required purposes.

According to the report, many teachers feel compelled to focus unduly on parts of the curriculum most likely to be tested ('teaching to the test') and on those students most likely to help schools reach Government targets. Teachers' creativity and children's access to a balanced education is being compromised as a result of the drive to improve test results.

The Committee calls for the decoupling of the multiple purposes for which test results are used. This could remove from schools the imperative to pursue test results at all costs.

The Government should also reform performance tables to include a wider variety of measures of school performance and present this information in a more accessible way.

Greater prominence should be given to teacher assessment and the Committee emphasises that assessment instruments designed to promote personalised learning should not be made part of the accountability regime.

The Chairman of the Committee, Barry Sheerman MP, said:

"The Committee's report reflects the strength of feeling regarding testing and assessment in schools. The report acknowledges that a system of national testing is a sound principle but it also highlights that the current system has flaws.

In an effort to drive up national standards, too much emphasis has been placed on a single set of tests and this has been to the detriment of some aspects of the curriculum and some students. The Committee would like to see teachers focus less on test results and corresponding league tables and more on personalised learning".