Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Formal Testing Is on the Rise, but Is It 'Dangerous'?

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Formal Testing Is on the Rise, but Is It 'Dangerous'?

Article excerpt

Secondary pupils may end up in wrong sets after internal exams

Formal testing is on the increase in secondary schools, it emerged this week, as one of the country's leading education academics warned of the "dangerous" unreliability of such assessment.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) told TES there had been a "big shift" towards the use of more internal formal exams for all year groups in secondaries.

The organisation said the move had been sparked by the government's GCSE and A-level reforms, which reduced or removed coursework and placed renewed emphasis on exams.

The ASCL said some schools used results from internal tests to decide which ability groups or sets pupils should be placed in. But respected education academic Dylan Wiliam warned that the practice could lead to half of pupils being put in the wrong groups.

A 'big shift'

Cherry Ridgway, curriculum and assessment specialist at the ASCL, said: "A few years ago, there wouldn't be many schools where children did formal exams in the hall in every subject in every year. Schools are moving towards that, and that's quite a big shift.

"Heads are saying there will definitely be more formal exams in exam halls, and they're struggling to use it formatively. An increase in testing reduces time to learn from results."

Benfield School in Newcastle introduced formal end-of-year tests in core subjects for all pupils last summer. "We started doing it to prepare students for linear exams," headteacher Neil Walker said. "It's to help them develop the study skills required."

Ms Ridgway said that some school leaders planned to make greater use of pupils' test results to decide on ability sets in core subjects, believing this to be "logical" because of the fresh emphasis on exams in the reformed GCSEs.

But Professor Wiliam said that even if a school used a reliable test to place children in sets for maths, only 50 per cent of those children would be in the "right set".

"That's just a logical consequence of the less-than-perfect reliability and the less-than-perfect validity of assessments," he said. "That's why it's very dangerous to depend on a single measure."

Ms Ridgway said most schools had previously used a combination of tests and teachers' observations of classroom performance. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.