I THINK it’s a good thing the primary school testing system is such a shambles.
Though I reckon a few people I’ve been speaking to in the last week might disagree.
There’s Tony Parker, head teacher of St Joseph’s Catholic Primary in Dalton, who saw his school drop down the dreaded league table because the Government managed to lose three of his pupils’ Key Stage 2 test papers.
That may not sound like many, but it was enough to drag the school’s “official” pass rate for English down from 89% to 83%.
To be fair, Mr Parker did only tell officials about the lost papers nine months before the results were published, so you can’t really expect them to correct the mistake at such short notice.
Or there’s Jim Lewis, head teacher of Hartshead Junior and Infants, whose school, according to the Government, has 42 children with special needs.
Mr Lewis insists - and he should know - that the correct figure is seven. Again, let’s be fair to the Government. Yes, they got the figure wrong - but only by 500%.
And those are just two examples from Kirklees. Look across the country and there could be hundreds of schools whose official records are incorrect.
I doubt head teachers like Mr Parker and Mr Lewis can see the positive side to all this official incompetence, but the silver lining is definitely there.
Because anything which brings the Key Stage 2 tests into disrepute will help hasten the demise of a stupid system.
I’ve never seen the point of testing children so thoroughly at the age of 11, let alone the Key Stage 1 tests, which take place when kids have barely started school.
Who does this benefit? Surely not the children, who are forced to jump through a set of hoops designed in Whitehall. Yes, it ticks boxes, but the testing process doesn’t increase children’s understanding.
Neither does it benefit the teachers, who are under pressure to get the kids through the Key Stage process so they end up teaching to the test rather than teaching to improve understanding.
Children end up learning less, but are under pressure to give the appearance of learning more. Valuable class time is spent preparing for the all-important Key Stage tests, while children’s wider education suffers.
I know this from my own experience of doing the 11-plus nearly 20 years ago.
Such was the pressure to pass that great swathes of class time were taken up doing practice tests so all of us were in peak condition for the big day.
Don’t get me wrong, as a former teacher, I know that testing has its place. It’s a way for parents and teachers to see how a child is developing.
But it strikes me, as an outside observer, that this is not what the Key Stage tests are about. They seem to be about nothing but league tables, drawing up lists of schools that we can all pore over in the newspaper.
Parents, civil servants, journalists – we all love a good league table. And that means we’re all responsible for this broken dysfunctional system of testing.
We know the league tables are misleading and unhelpful. Yet, like passers-by at an accident, we can’t help looking.
So the Government carries on with this crazy system which is failing a generation of children.
Perhaps, the only thing which will wean us all off this addiction to school league tables is the thought that the results we’re looking at may well be inaccurate.
Only then might something change.
I feel sorry for the teachers at Hartshead and St Joseph’s, who have to deal with the fallout of civil service incompetence.
But perhaps they can take some consolation from the fact that every inaccurate figure is another nail in the coffin of the whole system.