HC Deb 25 June 1991 vol 193 cc846-7
4. Mr. Viggers

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a further statement on the testing of children at the age of seven years.

Mr. Eggar

The first national tests for seven-year-olds in English, mathematics and science are now complete and a full evaluation is under way.

Mr. Viggers

Can my hon. Friend confirm that the tests are meant not to be competitive between pupils but on the contrary, to provide a most useful appraisal of their skills in reading, writing, arithmetic and basic science so that their future education can be planned in each case?

Mr. Eggar

I can certainly confirm that. The tests are diagnostic and are intended to identify the strengths and weaknesses of seven-year-old pupils so that teachers, pupils and parents can work together to remedy weaknesses and further to strengthen the strengths.

Mr. Fatchett

Is it not clear from this year's tests that the assessment system told teachers little new about the children in their charge, involved a great deal of teacher and student time, diverted attention from other children in the same class, and cost the taxpayer a great deal of money for Government experimentation? Against that background, would it not have been sensible for the Minister, to avoid the embarrassment and criticism that he faced at the headteachers' conference, to take the advice given to him by his right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) and to listen, for once, to the advice coming from teachers and to use the expertise of individual teachers, rather than simply going ahead with a scheme based on the Government's own misplaced and outdated ideology?

Mr. Eggar

I was under the possible misapprehension that the Labour party was committed to raising standards in education and to external testing of children at age seven, 11, 14 and 16. If Labour Members have changed their tune, they had better say so publicly.

Mr. David Shaw

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the main purposes of the tests is to test the effectiveness and quality of the education provided by local authorities, by the teachers, and by the governing bodies which run our schools, whereas under the last Labour Government there was no effective monitoring of the quality of education in schools?

Mr. Eggar

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The national curriculum makes it clear what we want children to be taught. Assessment and testing, which are integral to the national curriculum, are the only way available in which to assess whether pupils have learnt what has been taught.

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