Call for test crash answers

A LOCAL councillor and member of Dromore Central Primary School’s Board of Governors has waded into the controversy surrounding recent web-based literacy and numeracy tests.

Technical problems saw the Northern Ireland Numeracy Assessment and Northern Ireland Literacy Assessment fail their own practical test, to the publicly vented frustration of many principals, including Dromara Primary School Head Andrew Armstrong.

Mr. Armstrong said problems plaguing the new Computer Based Assessments had caused stress to staff and pupils alike.

“Every single principal colleague that I have been in contact with,” he said at the time, “has expressed their exasperation at the process that has been ‘dumped’ upon us from the Department of Education.”

Now, Dromore Ulster Unionist Councillor Carol Black has backed her party’s Education spokesperson, Danny Kinahan, in calling for answers from the Department of Education as to how the problems arose.

Ms. Black is eager too to hear from Stormont Education Minister John O’Dowd on exactly what plans he has in place to ensure similar problems don’t arise in future.

“I know,” she said, “that our teachers spent many hours preparing to take part in the NINA and NILA computerised tests which later proved to have suffered from technical faults.

“For many teachers across Northern Ireland hours that should have been spent on teaching were instead wasted on attempts to solve the problems with the assessment system.

“Many of the children said that the screen froze and went blank, and it took longer to complete, which caused anxiety and frustration.”

The Dromore councillor said ensuing confusion as to whether the testing system would be withdrawn was itself totally unacceptable and only added to the frustration.

Parents, she said, wanted their children to have the very best education and to enjoy every day of their time at school, to which end the education authorities had to provide answers as to what plans had been laid to prevent any repeat of the problems and why they arose in the first place.

She spoke too of deep concerns over the cost of getting the system right.

“It is clear,” she said, “that either the pilot run didn’t show up any faults, or, if it did, they weren’t heeded; more money will now have to be spent on this system as a result.

“Given how stretched the education budget currently is, this is totally unacceptable and a total disgrace.

“I remain to be convinced that the Department of Education actually knows the scale of the problem or how much it is going to cost to rectify this dire situation.”