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Science tests for 11-year-olds to be scrapped

Corduroys would prefer no tests or league tables at all

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The government has agreed to scrap national science tests for 11-year-olds. However, teaching unions still plan a boycott of the remaining tests in English and Maths, saying that these make primary school teaching "narrow". The teachers also object to the revelation of schools' test results in public league tables.

The BBC reports that ministers have agreed to the recommendations of a new expert assessment to be published on Thursday, saying that English and Maths testing should continue but that Science exams should be phased out in favour of assessment by teachers. There would, however, be some random national tests as a check on quality.

Mick Brookes, speaking for teaching unions the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said that the plans did not go far enough and that all the test subjects should be dropped. This would naturally render school "league tables", which rank schools by the exam results they achieve, irrelevant. Teachers have long been opposed to the publication of the tables, saying that they are unfair as they take no account of external factors beyond the control of teachers, such as the presence of deprived neighbourhoods etc.

Brookes, however, said that the primary objection to the tests was that it meant teachers had to "teach to the test", which meant in practice they taught little else but reading, writing, science and 'rithmetic towards the end of primary school. He suggested that removing science but leaving maths and English would simply mean teachers spending all their time on the "three Rs".

"Clearly if you take out the bits being tested, you are going to narrow the curriculum even more," he told the Beeb.

Brookes said that NUT and NAHT plans to ballot members on a boycott of all exams this year would go ahead. For its part, the government warned teachers that they would be breaking the law if they chose not to administer the tests.

It's also expected that this week's expert report will recommend the grading of schools by pupil behaviour and wellbeing, as well as by exam results, in a system of "report cards". It isn't clear whether ministers plan to present this information to the public alongside league tables.

An earlier report, the Rose report, recommended replacement of science for 11-year-olds with an emphasis on information communication technology (ICT).

The Tories said they were in favour of tests in principle, but would consider any government plans carefully. The Lib Dems said they would scrap the science tests and perhaps use more teacher self-assessment in English too, but keep Maths testing. ®

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