Headmaster's Blog - March 18th

Headmaster's Blog - March 18th

Blog 8 18 March 2011

Earlier this week I attended a meeting hosted by the ISEB (who do all the CE exams) and an assessment company. This company were working with the ISEB to produce a package of Verbal Reasoning, Non Verbal Reasoning, Maths and English tests that might be available for Prep Schools to enter children for in either year 6 or year 7. These test would be done on line and results would be almost instantaneous. The idea is that this would provide a uniform test of ability that could then be given to senior schools. Schools could use this independent and unbiased information to then assist them in sorting out their admissions. The tests (to be done in the familiar surroundings of S. Anselm’s) would then free the child up to have a good look at a senior school without the dread of the exams that currently many senior schools ask pupils to sit when they come around. It might even free up senior schools to look at other factors that might help them make an informed choice on each child (possibly sporting assessment or drama etc).

The slightly scaring thing about these tests is that with years of research behind them, they feel they can predict on the basis of these test, roughly what grade each child might get, not at CE, but GCSE and even A level. In fact they claim that they can give an indication that if the child were to stay on track and work hard that they could predict (to about a 75% accuracy rate) what grades they might achieve at A level!

As you can imagine, while this is interesting data, it does throw up some serious educational questions. Should the information be passed on to a child that they are on course to get an A grade at A level, they might switch off and underachieve. It might in a similar way crush other children’s hopes of their future success. It is also riddled with the issue of pre testing, which educationally I have many issues with. One of my main issues is that boys tend to mature later than girls. So testing boys at 11 really does do them no favours. In fact we see such progress in many of our boys in the final year alone that we are often really surprised (for the right reasons!). The way it all comes together in the final year is quite remarkable, and any test two year previously would miss all this. It also raises the question of the value of CE, if schools essentially give offers at the age of 11. It may even jeapodise the value of schools such as ours, where we are geared to the 13+, as some might move their children at 11 after these tests.

So interesting as it is, it is another case where possibly too much information might not be the best thing!

PS it is worth noting that all our pupils currently undergo PIPS testing each year, which assesses our children for Verbal Reasoning, Non Verbal Reasoning, Maths and English, and we constantly use this information in staff discussions about all pupils.