The exams merry-go-round
Walk into any bookshop and it's hard to believe Letts didn't introduce exams! A quick glance at the array of revision guides demonstrates the importance and emphasis now placed on assessing little Annie or Ahmed. For some parents, exams prove an occasion to swell with pride, as their child soars over the hurdles. Others seem to limp along, attempting to find a different way to cross the hurdle, dodge it, or not even getting an invitation to attempt it. However, we are told testing is designed to help spot problems and to allow children to be given appropriate help and support, so don't be despondent if your child doesn't fly first time, but do work with teachers and other professionals to help sort problems and difficulties.
The National Curriculum, and P levels
The National Curriculum is the framework used by all state schools in England. Children work at different levels according to age and ability. There are 4 key stages, with national testing at the end of each (the fourth being GCSE at which point the national curriculum no longer applies). By the end of key stage 1 (age 7), the average child is expected to achieve national curriculum level 2; this rises to level 4 at the end of key stage 2 and level 5 or 6 by the end of key stage 3. Only the most able pupils will achieve a level 8 with an additional exceptional performance category for those who achieve beyond this. Such performance is rare. In exceptional cases, schools can choose to disapply weaker students from some elements of the national curriculum.