A PARENTS' champion has branded new Government plans to make youngsters sit more school tests at 11 and 14 as "unnecessary meddling".

Nick Seaton, chairman of the York-based parent lobbying group the Campaign For Real Education has blasted plans to run a new set of exams alongside the current national SATS.

Education Secretary Alan Johnson has announced proposals for trials in a number of - as yet unnamed - local authorities of new schemes to help children who are struggling with the basics in English and mathematics, including, for the first time, one-to-one tuition at home, at a drop-in centre, or in the classroom after school.

But Mr Seaton said: "It's a ridiculous idea. It's making the system more complicated instead of less and it's bound to increase the workload for teachers who already have too much red tape to contend with."

Mr Johnson said one-to-one tuition in English and mathematics would be used to lift the performance of children who entered Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 3 behind the expected level.

Children will receive up to 20 hours of individual tutoring each to get them back on target and help them sustain progress.

Tutoring would be delivered by a qualified teacher and could take place at home, at a drop-in centre, or at school, out of hours. It is estimated that up to 10,000 children could benefit at a cost of £6 million.

Some better-off parents already buy in extra help through private tutors. The Government wants to make sure that this kind of support is available to all who need it, regardless of income.

The idea will be piloted for two years in ten local authority areas.

Ministers hope the "mini" tests will inject momentum into the process of raising standards - and they have no plans to do away with league tables.

At present, children across the country are assessed at the end of each national curriculum "key stage" - by their teachers, when they are aged about seven, and through tests in English, maths and science when they are 11 and 14.

Mr Johnson said: "Rather than measuring progress at the end of a key stage, we can shift the focus to progress within each key stage and each year."

  • Alex Jackson asked people in York city centre what they thought about school exams.

Richard Green, 21, a student, of Cemetery Road, said: "At such a young age this is a bit of stress they could do without. If anything, more coursework should be introduced rather than exams, as it teaches youngsters to work in their own time and prepare."

Graham Moizer, 53, an estate agent from York, said: "There has got to be a way to assess children's progress and I wonder if taking exams early puts them at a disadvantage. I think they should bring back the grammar school system so that every child has a better chance of reaching their true potential."

Christopher St Clair-Whicker, 23, a council worker, of The Groves, said: "Being a young person once, I hated exams, yet they do help you build towards a career. My main worry is that there is a lack of discipline in schools which there should be a crackdown on, and through a more structured syllabus this would be a good thing."