HC Deb 06 February 1991 vol 185 cc273-4
8. Mr. Malcolm Bruce

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received about the introduction of national tests in primary schools.

Mr. Lang

More than 100 representations about the introduction of national tests in primary schools have been received in the last three months.

Mr. Bruce

Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that, having been given the chance to choose, parents are overwhelmingly saying that they do not want his national test and that he should now scrap it in favour of co-operation with parents and teachers to meet the genuine demand for diagnostic testing which everybody wants and which can be integral to the five-to-14 programme? Does he agree that that would be a constructive way forward which showed that he believes in parental choice, even when parents do not choose what he offers?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman was not listening clearly to my answer. The figure that I gave of 100 representations should be compared with the 430,000 children in primary schools. It is clear that the test process is part of the general improvement in the handling of the curriculum and assessment for primary school children. It is very much to their advantage and it benefits children, schools, teachers, parents and Scottish education.

Mr. Ingram

Has the Secretary of State studied the detailed survey that has been carried out in my constituency and organised by St. Leonard's PTA? That survey clearly shows that the overwhelming majority of parents are opposed to this scheme. Will he take account of that view and either guarantee here and now that parents will have the right, if they choose, to opt out of the testing or, more importantly, will he scrap the scheme altogether?

Mr. Lang

I find the hon. Gentleman's assessment of parental views incredible. These tests are for the benefit of children and Scottish education. They are a small part of an overall and continuing process of assessment and will lead to an improvement in the standards of education in Scottish primary schools.

Mr. Worthington

Does the Secretary of State accept the legal opinion of what a regional council should do about informing parents about the test? Is it in accordance with section 28 of the 1980 Act about children being educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents? There should be a tear-off slip on the form to allow parents to decide whether their children should be tested. The parents should be given a choice, and the school and the Secretary of State should abide by the decision of the parents.

Mr. Lang

It is reassuring to note that the Opposition are suddenly so concerned about parents' rights in education, having tried so hard for so long to deny them. It is relevant to remind the House that the Opposition did not oppose the regulations about national tests in primary schools, and did not oppose the provision in the Self-Governing Schools Etc. (Scotland) Act 1989 which brought them into being. I think that the Opposition believe, certainly English Opposition Members believe, that testing is a necessary part of education. Teaching without testing is like cooking without tasting or writing without reading. We cannot have one without the other.

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