Testing and Assessment

Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 12:28 pm on 7th May 2009.

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families 12:28 pm, 7th May 2009

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement on the report of the expert group on assessment that has been published today.

Over the past 10 years, thanks to increased investment and great teaching, there has been a significant rise in standards in our primary and secondary schools. Testing and assessment have played a vital role in bringing about those improvements, and they continue to do so. However, the system is not set in stone. In my statement to the House in October, I set out three key principles that guide our approach. They are that we have to give parents the information that they need, to enable head teachers and teachers to secure the progress of every child, and to allow the public to hold national Government, local government and governing bodies to account.

Having also studied the Select Committee's report on testing and assessment, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Schools and Learners and I concluded, on the basis of those principles and the key role that GCSE results play in secondary school accountability, that we would end key stage 3 national curriculum tests for 14-year-olds. I also said that the national curriculum tests at the end of key stage 2 provide the only objective measure of attainment during primary school, and that they are therefore essential to giving parents, teachers and the public the information that they need about the progress of each primary age child and of every primary school. However, I also said that I take seriously the concerns that some have raised about key stage 2 testing and accountability, so I announced the establishment of an expert group to advise us on the future of testing and assessment and its role in school accountability.

Over the past six months, the group has widely consulted head teachers, teachers, parents, subject associations and academics, as well as schools engaged in our stage not age single-level test pilots. I have now received the group's final report, and I have placed copies of it and my reply in the Libraries of both Houses. I should like to thank the group's members for all their hard work.

The expert group has recommended that we improve the transition between primary and secondary school, including through stronger links between schools, an extended project and a new primary graduation certificate that recognises each child's achievements; intensify our focus on catch-up learning during years 7 and 8 for those who fall behind during primary school, including through developing a progress check for those children at the end of year 7; strengthen the quality of teacher assessment, including in IT; continue to make key stage 3 tests available to all secondary schools, including the 75 per cent. of schools that have requested them this year; use a national sample test to ensure that standards are maintained; and strengthen the school accountability system by introducing a new school report card.

On key stage 2 national curriculum tests, the expert group has made a clear recommendation about English and maths. The group says:

"Externally marked and validated tests play an important role in the accountability system", and, it concludes that

"removing externally marked Key Stage 2 tests now, and replacing them with teacher assessment only, would represent a step backwards for pupils' learning and for school accountability."

So, it recommends that

"Key Stage 2 tests in English and maths should remain as a key accountability measure for all primary schools".

The group also recommends that we continue and extend our trials of stage not age tests; and that we move the key stage 2 test back from May to mid-June, so that there is continued learning to the end of year 6 and the role of teacher assessment in the transition to secondary school is strengthened.

On science, the expert group concludes that we can improve the teaching and assessment of the subject, and reinforce its critical role in the new primary curriculum, by replacing the externally marked test with enhanced teacher assessment that better recognises whether pupils have a firm grip of the practical nature of science and the skills to develop and apply scientific understanding.

I can confirm that I will accept the expert group's recommendations in full and now consult on their implementation. We will now move forward with our stage not age test pilots and trial, replacing the standard key stage 2 tests with single-level tests in maths for pilot schools next year. In addition, because the expert group rightly stresses that the importance of science will only grow, I intend to ensure that there is externally validated accountability for national standards in science by introducing a new sample test at key stage 2—going beyond the expert group's recommendations. I am pleased that the Royal Society, the Science Community Representing Education—SCORE—the Science Learning Centres, the Association for Science Education, the Wellcome Trust and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation have all agreed to work with us to design that national sample test and to strengthen the teaching and assessment of science in our primary schools.

The issue of key stage 2 tests is controversial and, as the expert group says,

"some schools, teachers and educational organisations are concerned that the use of the outcomes of external tests for purposes which are 'high stakes' for schools can lead to unequal attention to all pupils' needs, and to pupils being put under undue pressure".

That is why the expert group has asked us to provide new guidance to schools to ensure that preparation for key stage 2 tests is proportionate and educationally appropriate. However, the expert group also concludes:

"Many concerns about testing arise not from the tests themselves but from the uses to which the test data is put, and the impact this can have on school and teacher behaviour."

I agree that that wider issue of accountability is at the heart of concerns about key stage 2 tests.

Parents currently find published league table information easy to understand, but by focusing only on the performance of the average child, those tables do not challenge schools on whether they are stretching their most gifted and talented pupils or helping those who have fallen behind; they do not recognise the extra challenges that some schools face in helping children from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed; and they ignore discipline, attendance, parental satisfaction and the vital contribution that schools make to children's wider development. That is why the report card will, for the first time, provide easily accessible information on all those aspects of school performance. It must be fair to all schools and help parents and others to make meaningful comparisons between schools.

Although some have said that league tables should be banned, that is simply not an option, as all the data are rightly in the public domain and will continue to be. It is therefore essential that the school report card provide a better balanced and clearly superior alternative to old-style league tables. I know that there are strong views about whether the report card should be based on a single grade, or on a combination of grades measuring attainment, progress and well-being, but without an overall score or grade on the report card it is very hard to see how it can allow between schools appropriate comparisons that both take account of the range of schools' work and are as compelling and easy to understand as those provided by old-style league tables. We will now consult further on that issue in advance of our forthcoming schools White Paper.

Others have called for us to drop key stage 2 tests entirely, but the expert group is clear that to drop them entirely would be the wrong thing to do. Furthermore, independent surveys of parents show that the clear majority value the information that the tests provide. I know that head teachers take their statutory responsibilities and position as role models to young people extremely seriously, and I know that they want nothing less than the best for the children in their schools. However, as the expert group says,

"the most successful and most trusted organisations, including outstanding schools, colleges and universities, welcome high levels of accountability as they seek constantly to improve what they do."

That is true professionalism and the responsible road to take. So, I urge all those who put the interests of pupils and parents first to continue to work with us to reform the testing and accountability system.

Continuing key stage 2 tests in English and maths, alongside the wider reforms we are announcing today, is vital to give parents the information that they want and need; to enable head teachers and teachers to secure the progress of every child and their school as a whole; to allow the public to hold national and local government and governing bodies to account for the performance of schools; and to raise standards for all children. I commend this statement to the House.

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Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Shadow Secretary of State (Children, Schools and Families)

I thank the Secretary of State for advance notice of the statement and the chance to read some of the expert group's recommendations. I also join him in thanking the expert group for its work and commitment, which I know he shares, to doing everything that it can to improve state education for all children.

Today's statement follows the fiasco of last year's standard assessment tests—SATs—when the Government presided over a comprehensive shambles. It was both an administrative disaster, for which some have paid the price, and a challenge to all of us to think about how we can improve the testing and assessment regime in our schools. The Secretary of State was right to say that the regime that he inherited should not be set in stone, but, even as we constantly strive to improve how we assess our children, does he not agree that we should also ensure that the assessment process is built on certain enduring principles?

Last October, the Secretary of State said that it was right that all the tests at key stage 2, including science, should be subject to external assessment. He specifically said that in his judgment,

"parents want the same certainty at key stage 2...that they currently get with GCSE".

That is the certainty that externally set and marked tests provide. He argued then against sampling, because that would deprive parents of

"objective evidence on the performance of an individual school" and would not deliver for "every parent" a reliable guide to their child's progress. Further to that, he argued:

"Asking schools to take on the burden" of teacher assessment would add to the bureaucratic load on teachers and simply

"would not be the right thing to do for parents." —[ Hansard, 14 October 2008; Vol. 480, c. 684-90.]

That is why he rejected the road of teacher assessment for English, maths and science at key stage 2. What has changed to make him abandon those principles now? Why should parents not have the certainty that external assessment in science provides? Why should parents now have less objective information about their children's progress? Why should they now lose out on valuable information with which they can measure the performance of individual schools? Crucially, if teacher assessment is right for science, why is it not right for English and maths? I am delighted that the Secretary of State has the support of the Royal Society and others in designing a new, improved science test for key stage 2. However, if the new sample test is so good, why is every child not allowed to sit it?

Improving our performance in science education is crucial to improving our economic performance as a nation and vital if the next generation are to grow up as rational, questioning and informed citizens with the knowledge and skills to master the challenges of an ever more complex world, but today's announcement comes against a backdrop of declining faith in the rigour of the science education that we offer young people. In GCSE science, students are asked whether people look at stars with microscopes or telescopes and whether the fact that nuclear power stations provide jobs is an argument in favour of nuclear power or against it. They are asked whether seat belts are a safety feature in cars, whether the sun orbits around the earth and whether battered sausages are healthier than grilled fish. Many of the questions are not tests of scientific knowledge and involve only straightforward English comprehension.

The Royal Society of Chemistry has said that changes to the science curriculum have been "a catastrophe". Just last week, the Government announced the downgrading of science in the primary curriculum as part of a broader relegation of the importance of subject disciplines. Is now not precisely the wrong time to downgrade science and move away from rigour? Should the Secretary of State not be outlining ways in which assessment of all children, and not just a sample few, is to become clearly and unambiguously more authoritative, rigorous and stretching?

As the Secretary of State knows, parents want more rigour and better information about how their children are doing. That is why we welcome the principle of a report card that outlines in greater detail how schools are performing, so that parents have a more rounded picture of achievement. However, if it is right for there to be more information overall, how can it be right to have less information on how children are doing in science? If it is also right to ensure that we better reflect how children are stretched and challenged and how the less able are helped to improve in primary school, should that not apply to GCSE league tables as well? Should we not move away from the current focus on the C/D borderline so that we have a measure of testing how schools perform that rewards those that stretch the most able and also those that encourage less able children to do even better? I hope that the Secretary of State will be open-minded about such a change.

Like many, we share the Secretary of State's concerns about teaching to the test, but is not the answer to improve the quality of the externally set tests rather than to abandon them? If the Government are really concerned about teaching to the test and about narrowing the curriculum, why are they pressing ahead with their plans for what they have called single-level tests? Would their plans not mean that, instead of a one-off measure of real performance, children would be sitting tests again and again throughout primary school, as schools strived to improve their league table performance? Would they not mean that teaching and learning would be crowded out by tests and cramming to prepare for the growth in testing?

We know that parents support clear, rigorous and transparent testing at the end of primary school. According to the Government's own statistics, three quarters of parents believe that externally marked tests in every subject at the end of primary education are accurate and worth while. We need the most accurate possible information about how our children and our schools are doing. At a time of economic upheaval and transformation, we need a stronger emphasis on science in our schools, and we need the sharpest possible accountability in every area of academic performance. Sadly, I fear that by declining to stand up to outside pressure and by retreating on the principle of external assessment, the Secretary of State has failed the test of ensuring that he defends what is best for our children.

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

I have been trying to work out from the hon. Gentleman's reply whether he supports or opposes what we are doing today; to be honest, I have ended up a bit confused. We are taking forward robust assessment and testing of children through the continuation of key stage 2 tests, and we are going to introduce a report card designed precisely to ensure that primary and secondary schools are judged on the achievements of all their pupils, and not just on those of their pupils on the C/D borderline. As I said, I struggled to understand what the hon. Gentleman was saying in much of his response, although I think that, in the main, he was supporting what we are doing.

Jim Rose's report last week made it absolutely clear that science is at the centre of the primary curriculum. However, the expert group on testing which I set up last autumn has said:

"We have consulted widely with science education bodies, learned societies and others, and have concluded that unlike in English and mathematics, the summative assessment of the Key Stage 2 science curriculum is not best done through an externally set and marked written test. The difference in value of the test is illustrated in part by the fact that Key Stage 2 English and mathematics results better predict later achievement in science than the Key Stage 2 science test does. In place of the science test, high quality supported teacher assessment should be used."

I have accepted the advice of the expert group on the basis of its consultation with a range of experts from the science community, including the Association for Science Education, the Wellcome Trust, the Royal Society and many others. They will work with us to take forward what they believe is the right way to strengthen science and its assessment. Once again, the experts and the widespread community will work with me to take forward the proposals in the teeth of opposition from the shadow Secretary of State, who is isolated on this point.

The issue of whether I have changed my position since the autumn has been raised. The fact is that in the autumn the shadow schools Minister said in an Adjournment debate that it was essential that we kept key stage 3 tests. A few days later, the shadow Secretary of State changed his mind and completely contradicted that, supporting our position. I am rather hoping that, when he reflects on the issue of science, he will also decide to change his position.

We are moving forward on the basis of enduring principles: doing the best by parents, pupils, teachers and head teachers to make sure that they are properly accountable. The expert advice is that we should proceed in that way. That is what I am doing, consistently with my principles. The idea that I am backing down on the issue is complete nonsense. We will ensure that we continue with key stage 2 tests in English and maths, as the expert group recommends. We will make sure that there is proper accountability through the report card. I hope that the shadow Secretary of State will reflect a little and decide to change his mind and support us.

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Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Chair, Children, Schools and Families Committee, Chair, Children, Schools and Families Committee

As my right hon. Friend may remember, the Children, Schools and Families Committee produced its report on testing and assessment a year ago next week. I congratulate him on having listened to the Committee's recommendations and to the expert group that he set up. I welcome much of what he said today, as will many members of my Committee.

May I push the Secretary of State on the issue of report cards? He knows that the national curriculum, public and educational accountability, and the method of testing all hang together. I hope that he will look very soon at our recent report on the national curriculum in the same positive way as he has looked at testing and assessment. There is one particular concern about report cards—

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Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. Other Members want to ask questions about the statement.

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Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not challenge the Chair.

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Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

The statement has started, and there is a second statement after this one. In the Chamber, we can seem to have plenty of time one minute, but the next minute hon. Members are very cross because they have not been able to get their chance to question the Secretary of State. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman feels as he does, but that is the position.

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

I very much appreciate the work done by my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Select Committee over the past year on these issues. He is right to say that the primary curriculum, testing and accountability all hang together. It has been helpful to us that Sir Jim Rose has been doing the primary curriculum review and sitting on the expert group. My hon. Friend is right to point out that we must ensure that the accountability system works to reflect both the curriculum and the testing regime in a way that is fair to all schools. I hope that in the coming weeks before the White Paper we will have the chance to explore these issues, particularly the report card, in greater detail in the Select Committee. It is very important that we get this right. I hope that I have allowed more consultation on the report card and the difficult issue of a single grade so that we can go into this in depth. I appreciate my hon. Friend's contribution.

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Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister (Education)

First, may I pass on the apologies of my hon. Friend Mr. Laws, who is unable to be here today? I thank the Secretary of State for prior notice of the statement. I also thank the expert group for its work.

We welcome the scrapping of the key stage 2 science test in its current form, but we query the timing of this statement. If the test is useless, what message does that give to children who will presumably be taking it in the next week or two? Notwithstanding the Rose review's areas of learning, we seek assurances that science will not be squeezed out of the primary curriculum.

On single-level tests, how many schools are participating in the pilot? How long does the Secretary of State expect the pilot to run? Does he share our concerns about increased testing?

The expert group used the phrase

"unequal attention to all pupils' needs".

That seems to be code for teaching to the test. The Select Committee and Ofsted have expressed concern about teaching to the test, and the Secretary of State says that he is going to issue guidance. I understand that there is already a memorandum. What is the difference between a memorandum and guidance?

What steps is the Secretary of State going to take to increase on-screen marking? What consideration will he give, and has he given, to more teacher assessment with external moderation? We agree that we need some external moderation at key stage 2, and, potentially, external sample testing. It is important to get the basics right. It is a scandal that one in three children is leaving primary school not having reached acceptable standards in literacy and numeracy. Along with the basics, I want rich experiences for primary school pupils to give them a real joy in learning and stimulate them to creativity. Most of all, I want us to have a firm foundation so that further down the line we will get excellence in all subjects, but particularly a good flow of students taking and expanding their studies in the STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

I entirely agree with the hon. Lady's desire to ensure that all children enjoy and are stretched by the primary curriculum. I hope that she welcomes the Rose review, which is designed to achieve precisely that. I can assure her that it places science absolutely at the centre of the curriculum. Far from downgrading science, the reason this has been proposed by the expert group and supported by all the scientific expert organisations that I listed is that they know that it will strengthen young people's enjoyment and achievement in science.

The hon. Lady is right that we must build on the progress that we have made. Ten years ago, 63 per cent. of young people in primary school were getting to the right level; that has gone up to 81 per cent. after years of stagnation with the Conservatives. In maths, the figure has gone up from 62 to 78 per cent. We need to ensure that every child succeeds, but only through our investment and our support for teachers and the progress of every child have we achieved these huge rises in standards after years of under-investment and stagnation with the Conservatives. We must not go back to the bad state of education in those previous years.

About 300 schools are working with us in the single-level testing pilots, which are about trying to ensure that tests are truly designed for the progress of every child. We have said—and the expert group says very clearly—that we will not move forward to any wider implementation of single-level tests until we have seen the evidence, particularly where that becomes the main focus of accountability, which will happen next year in schools where we will use the single-level test instead of the key stage 2 test for mathematics.

The hon. Lady is right that teacher assessment has an important role to play. Through the report, we are strengthening the role of teacher assessment in the transition from primary to secondary school. She will not like this, and nor will the Liberal education spokesperson, but the expert group says that there is no evidence to give us confidence that moderated teaching assessment can provide the objective measure of performance in primary schools that we need. That is why, I am afraid, it rejects the proposal to extend teacher assessment that the hon. Lady and her party support.

Of course we must not have teaching to the test, and the best schools do not do that. The way to avoid it is to ensure that we have not only great teachers but the right accountability system. That is why the report card is so important in focusing on the progress of every child. Although the hon. Lady did not mention it, I hope that she will welcome that when we publish our White Paper in the coming weeks.

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Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Labour, Bristol East

The other day I met in Parliament a primary school teacher from Bristol who raised with me several concerns about the testing regime. I am sure that he will welcome some of the Secretary of State's announcements, although he may feel that they do not go far enough. One of his concerns was about how much of the school budget is spent on extra support for pupils who are just under the cusp of passing the test to ensure that they get through it, and whether that means that children who do not stand any chance of reaching the required level are left by the wayside. What assurances can the Secretary of State give to teachers and to the parents of such pupils that children will not be abandoned because there is not much chance of their reaching the level of the test in the time scale required?

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

I can give this assurance. We are changing the nature of school accountability away from the current focus on the performance of the average child, which, as my hon. Friend says, incentivises focusing on children just below that level, to give schools proper credit for the progress not only of the most talented children but of the children who fall behind. The report card is the right way to do that. As teachers, head teachers and parents look at our proposal in detail in the coming weeks, they will see that that situation, rather than the testing regime, needs to be changed in order to ensure that we achieve the outcome for every child that my hon. Friend supports.

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Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

Notwithstanding the reams of statistics that the Secretary of State mentioned and the learned groups and experts whom he prayed in aid, does he accept that there is a widespread public concern, which my hon. Friend Michael Gove expressed, about the degree of rigour in education and the level of attainment in difficult subjects such as sciences and languages, which goes right the way up to university level, is often found by employers, and is reflected in university applications? Will the Secretary of State bear that in mind, or does he think that it is completely ill founded?

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

We recently had an international and independent report, the Tymms study, which showed that in maths and in science, English education is now right up there with the best and ahead of our European partners. Instead of listening to the rhetoric of his Front Benchers, he should study the facts, where he will find real progress and rising standards year on year, internationally verified. We are legislating to introduce the independent body, Ofqual, to try to give greater assurance to parents and teachers that standards are rising and to find an antidote to the continual attempts by Opposition Front Benchers to talk down the achievements of teachers and children in our country.

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Photo of Brian Jenkins Brian Jenkins Labour, Tamworth

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement; no doubt his report card will say "Reasonable progress to date". However, when he refers to student learning and school accountability, is he sure that he does not mean student learning or school accountability? Student learning comes with a report card on the progress that a student has made; school accountability comes from the summation of the added values for those children shown by their report card. He is up to date, but so that he is not fixed in stone, will he keep an open mind in future as regards getting rid of these set tests, finding a way of spot-checking the progress children make in our schools, and reinforcing school accountability?

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

We have shown over the past few months that we are willing to reform the system on the basis of the best expert advice and try to build a consensus on the way forward on testing and accountability. As the expert group says, many of the concerns are not about the tests themselves but about how they are then used. My hon. Friend is right that as well as focusing on average attainment in the class, we must look at the progress that children make and the disadvantage that they start with and experience while learning, as well as the views of parents and children and their wider well-being. All those things are what parents value in a school and what head teachers want to deliver for all the children in their school.

I am not seeking to abolish old-style league tables—that would be the wrong thing to do. I want to put in place a simple and compelling report that compares school by school but does so fairly on the basis of some of the issues that my hon. Friend raises. That is the biggest reform that we can achieve, and I hope that we will have support not only from Labour Members but from the Conservatives—although I will not hold my breath.

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Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

Clearly the Secretary of State's report card would say, "Shocking; could do better; should be kept back a year" or something along those lines, because his explanation today has not been very good. My hon. Friend Michael Gove asked him what the major difference was between maths and English and science that meant they were being treated differently. I agree that there should be enhanced teacher assessment, although I rather hope that that is what good teachers would be doing in any event, because they would want to know where the deficiencies were with any of their youngsters, but we must still have the important external rigour and independence.

Surely part of the problem, as my hon. Friend said, is the simplicity of some of the questions that youngsters are now being asked. They are hardly challenging. They cannot be, because even I could answer some of the questions that my hon. Friend read out—not all of them, but some, and I am not good at science. Surely we ought to be trying to enthuse our youngsters into being attracted to science not only in primary school but in secondary school and on to university. Sadly, over the past few years university science courses have shrunk, and—

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

I fear that the explanation for the hon. Gentleman's self-confessed lack of progress in and understanding of science is that, unfortunately, he almost certainly went to school under a Tory Government. Today, young people going to school under a Labour Government are getting a quite different experience of science education. If he would like some remedial learning, I can absolutely have that arranged.

The expert group makes it clear that:

"The practical nature of science and the importance of learning science by inquiry...make it distinct."

It explains why science learning and understanding is better suited to a different type of testing from that for English and maths. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will study the report.

The hon. Gentleman mentions being held back. There have been a number of Opposition proposals on testing and assessment. About a year and a half ago, they proposed that 11-year-olds who do not make the grade in primary school should be held back for a further year. We do not hear much about that from Michael Gove, although it was his party's leader who set that out in The Sunday Telegraph in September 2007. The reason why the Opposition do not talk about it is that it was roundly condemned by head teachers, teachers and parents, who were horrified at the prospect that a child in year 6 would suddenly be with a whole load of pupils who had been held back for another year. The hon. Gentleman says that people should be held back, but that was a Conservative proposal that was rejected by parents, although the Opposition Front Benchers have not yet withdrawn it. Maybe they will do that today.

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Photo of Dari Taylor Dari Taylor Labour, Stockton South

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, and I am pleased to hear that continued consideration will be given to the effectiveness of testing and assessment. I should like to put it on record, and I should like him to acknowledge, that in Stockton we have seen seriously improved assessed standards in primary schools, driven by highly professional teaching staff and head teachers.

During the conducting of this valuable study, did any teachers or head teachers make the statement that their teaching now lacks creativity as a consequence of testing and assessment?

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

I am sure that there are some head teachers and teachers who believe that the way they approach testing in year 6 reduces creativity. I do not find that that is the general pattern, and in fact the best teachers and outstanding leaders know that the way to get pupils to succeed, including in their tests, is to inspire them and have a creative curriculum. The reason for the rise in standards in recent years has been in part great teaching but also the focus and accountability that the tests bring. I pay tribute to the schools in my hon. Friend's constituency, because after years of stagnation under the Conservative party, standards have been rising because of investment and great teaching. We want to keep that investment flowing in future years, so that standards can keep rising for her constituents.

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Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Conservative, Beverley and Holderness

The chief inspector of schools told the Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families yesterday, when asked who she thought would write the school report cards, that she was not sure. When pushed, she said that she assumed it would be the Department, and then said that really she had no idea. Can the Secretary of State tell the House who will be writing and signing off school report cards? If he does know the answer to that question, will he explain why he has not shared it with the chief inspector of schools?

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

I hate to chastise a member of the Select Committee, but one would have thought that he might read some of the published documents and discussions about the school report card. If he had, he would not have asked a question that was so far off the mark.

The school report card, as we set out in the autumn, will be compiled on the basis of a series of different data sources, all of which need to be objective and externally verifiable. They will include data on attainment, progress, the views of parents and children, education outcomes and health outcomes. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and I are working together closely to ensure that progress on the health of children will be reflected in the school report card.

The report card will not be written; it will be compiled from a series of externally validated data sources on the basis of clear, widespread consultation. That will be done through statute, which will be brought to the House, and on the basis of an agreement that we believe can be reached consensually. As I said, the report card will be published for every school based on those external data sources, according to a formula that we will consult on and agree. We will bring forward proposals for that formula in the White Paper. It will be externally verifiable, but it will be done school by school—

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Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. Has the Secretary of State completed his remarks? [Interruption.] No, no, I am not insisting, but he is taking interventions from a sedentary position. Is he happy to finish there?

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Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

I was instructed that it was quite important that I took a bit of time, Mr Deputy Speaker.

We will ensure that this is done in such a way that each school will be able to produce its own report card in the public domain, based on objective criteria on which we will consult widely and which will be independently verified. Each school will be able to produce and publish it. Of course that will be done in consultation with Ofsted and Ofqual to ensure that is objective and done properly. The reason why I was rather surprised by the question is that if Mr. Stuart, who is a member of the Select Committee, had studied the reports properly, he would not have asked such a ridiculous question in the first place.

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Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Well, I think that we can now move to the next statement.

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