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Pilot Tests

Volume 210: debated on Tuesday 30 June 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will make a statement on the pilot tests in English for 14-year-olds; and what part was played by the Northern Examining Association in the development of the tests.

Last year, the School Examinations and Assessment Council, with the agreement of my predecessor and of the Secretary of State for Wales, commissioned the preparation of the first statutory tests for 14-year-olds in mathematics, science, English, Welsh and technology, which will be held in 1993.The development of the tests is well advanced, and a successful national pilot of the mathematics and science tests was held earlier this month. At the same time, prototype English and technology tests were trialled in a small number of schools in both England and Wales, and prototype tests in Welsh were trialled in some Welsh schools.As work on the English tests has developed, it has become clear that some changes are needed in order to secure rigour and a proper test of the breadth and depth of pupils' reading. On the advice of the School Examinations and Assessment Council, under its chairman, Lord Griffiths, I have therefore decided that the English tests for 1993 should consist of:

  • questions on a set Shakespeare play;
  • questions on a standard anthology of short stories, poems and extracts chosen to reflect the breadth of reading required by the English national curriculum order, to be distributed to secondary schools in advance of the tests; an objective test of pupils' basic reading skills, including their grammar and vocabulary;
  • a test of comprehension of an unseen passage, which will also serve as a test of pupils' writing skills;
  • a separate test of pupils' imaginative writing.

In view of these changes, SEAC intends to invite fresh tenders to write the tests for 1993. It will be open to the Northern Examining Association, which has worked on the tests so far, to tender for this new contract. I am placing copies of the specification in the Library.

This decision will ensure that the first tests for 14-year-olds in 1993 will be academically rigorous; will reflect the breadth of reading specified in the national curriculum; and will prove manageable for teachers and stimulating for pupils.