HC Deb 23 April 1991 vol 189 c893
8. Mr. Bill Michie

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what decisions he has made about the publication of the tests of seven-year-olds.

Mr. Eggar

I expect schools to publish their results this summer. They have certainly been encouraged to do so.

Mr. Michie

The Secretary of State must be aware of the concern about the publication of crude aggregate figures, which could lead to a false market in schools. Therefore, as I understand it, authorities such as Sheffield will not publish the results this year. Will the Secretary of State rethink the matter and allow local authorities the discretion to decide whether to publish?

Mr. Eggar

I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that, at the moment, parents make judgments about schools on hearsay, on subjective values. Surely it is right that where there are objective assessments of how a school is doing, that information should be in the public domain to enable parents to choose between schools on a better-informed basis.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the publication and provision of tests for seven-year-olds does not necessarily mean that our children are being branded as failures in any way? Will he explain to Opposition Members and others who are providing a misleading impression of Government policy that this is a good policy, that it is right for our young people and that it should not be misrepresented in such a way?

Mr. Eggar

I agree absolutely with my hon. Friend, who has much experience in this area. The purpose of the tests is to assess how children are doing and to identify weaknesses and strengths, so that weaknesses can be remedied and strengths further enhanced.

Ms. Gordon

Will the Minister explain the connection between the proposals to publish tests of seven-year-old children and the outrageous treatment of Culloden school, which will exacerbate children's problems and not help them? Is that an attempt to stampede parents, who know that the tests for seven-year-olds will be severely damaging to their children's self-image and self-confidence, into supporting them?

Mr. Eggar

I am extremely surprised at the attitude of the hon. Lady. HMI made an objective assessment of Culloden. I should have thought that it was in her constituents' interests to ensure that that school remedies the defects identified by HMI in a way that will benefit children and parents.