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Education secretary Michael Gove wants all 13-year-old pupils to sit exams currently used to select children for the private schools, he announced today.
Introducing more tests in state schools will help monitor pupil performance between assessments already taken at the end of primary school and GCSEs, Mr Gove said.
“It is often during this period that performance dips and students suffer,” the education secretary said. “I am open to arguments about how we can improve performance – and assessment – in this critical period.
“But there is already one widely available, robust and effective test of knowledge for just this age group – the Common Entrance test papers. They are exams designed for 13-year-olds: they are used by private schools to ensure students are on track for later success, they are already available on the web and are a fantastic resource.
“So I want state schools to try out Common Entrance exams – giving them a chance to check how well they and their pupils are performing against some of the top schools around the world.”
Mr Gove was speaking at the London Academy of Excellence, a selective state sixth-form college set up in east London by a number of independent schools.
He said he wanted to break down the “Berlin Wall” between private and state schools and that it was his ambition to raise standards in state schools so they were indistinguishable from their fee-paying counterparts.
As well as using the Common Entrance exams – which cover a range of academic subjects – Mr Gove said that schools should also consider taking Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests, which are used to create international league tables.
Mr Gove said evidence showed “beyond any reasonable doubt” that English state education is starting to show a “sustained and significant improvement”.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has already found that state schools perform as well as independent schools when the inbuilt advantage that independent schools have to select the brightest and most advantaged pupils [is taken into account].
"The two sectors have much to learn from one another and, in many areas of the country, are sharing good practice and working together."