It sounded a noble aim, for New Labour to prioritise education, education, education. The method they chose since coming to power was a relentless attempt to raise standards by an obsession with tests and exams in every school, almost at every age level. (Ages 5, 7, 11, 14, 16, 17 and 18.) By using these scores to hold schools to account as never before, they planned to focus attention on each pupil's progress and thereby raise total standards. However well intentioned, it has become clear that these tests also have damaging side effects, as teachers are forced to adopt shortcuts to improve statistics, whether or not they are in the pupil's best interest. The tests may be good for government, but they do not produce a rounded child, and standards do not rise as hoped for. Warwick Mansell, a journalist with the TES, is the only journalist researching the subject in detail, and reveals how intention and practice widely differ so widely.
Warwick Mansell is the curriculum and exams correspondent for the Times Educational Supplement, concentrating on the assessment regime in schools. He has gathered extensive data and research on schools testing and exams, including interviews with educationists, teachers, pupils and parents. In 2005, he was shortlisted for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Education Journalist of the Year.