UK Education Secretary Michael Gove has said that schools need to make greater use of internal testing and assessment to aid children’s ability to retain and critically use information they have learned.
“Tests are a way of making sure that students understand, recall and can use information. The more students can recall information instinctively, and the more that information is part of their working knowledge, the easier it is for them to perform complex tasks.”
He also criticized the current system of four ‘key stages’ as being too long and resulting in a learning dip between key tests. Mr Gove was quick to point out, however, that he wasn’t necessarily advocating for new national tests to bridge the gaps.
“If you have too long between the statutory assessments of children or young people, there is a chance that things may drift,” he said.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean that you introduce tests half way through Key Stage 2 [from seven to 11], but it does mean that we have got to think hard about why they have drawn attention to that.
Education standards in the UK have been a major national concern in the wake of last year’s riots, which many groups are attributing to a disaffected youth failed by the current education system. There is a widespread feeling that something must be done to avoid the development of a large unemployable underclass.
Gove told an education select committee that the major problem with the current ‘Key Stages’ system was that too many pupils were being allowed to coast between the national tests, especially at primary school level. His remarks may not prove popular with teachers unions however who have long complained that primary school children are already being overtested, and recently suggested that the increased focus on testing in recent years had compromised their integrity.
Speaking after the select committee, he added: “I’m all in favour of more tests but I’m not necessarily in favour of more nationally-set tests at certain points.
“The point the panel make is that the longer a key stage the greater the potential for both a dip and also for a lack of rigour in knowing that certain amounts of knowledge have been absorbed.”
In 2011, more than 25% of children finished primary education without a full grasp of what are colloquially referred to as the ‘three R’s’: reading, writing and arithmetic. There is evidence that even talented pupils leaving primary school are back-sliding during secondary education and 40% of students failed to get five GCSE passes which included English and Maths.