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‘I’ll be a nothing’: structure, agency and the construction of identity through assessment

Diane Reay
Dylan Wiliam

Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Conference, Queen's University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, August 27th to 30th 1998

Address for correspondence: Dr Diane Reay, King’s College London School of Education, Cornwall House, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8WA, Tel: 0171 872 3093; Fax: 0171 872 3182; Email:


Drawing on data from focus group and individual interviews with year 6 pupils in the term leading up to key stage 2 national curriculum tests, this paper analyses the extent to which children’s perceptions of the tests contribute to identity formation. The tension between agency and structure becomes apparent in children’s differential dispositions to view the testing process as a definitive statement about the sort of learner they are. Although children’s responses are varied, what most share is a sense of an event which reveals something intrinsic about them as individuals. The paper also explores the emotions, in particular the anxiety and fear, which permeate such understandings of the national curriculum assessment process.

Introduction and background

The primary purpose of the 1988 Education Reform Act was to create an educational ‘market’ that, it was assumed by its proponents, would increase standards of performance in schools. Freeing schools from the homogenising effects that local education authorities were believed to exert would create a diversity of provision, allowing parents, who were generally viewed as the ‘consumers’ of education (rather than, say, students, or the wider community), to choose schools that reflected their aspirations and wishes. Popular schools would expand, and those that were not, would have to improve, or, if they could not, would close. However, in order to allow the market to function ‘efficiently’, it was necessary to create an index of performance. The national school-leaving examination (the GCSE) provided such an index for students at age 16, but of course would provide no information about the performance of students in primary schools. The solution enacted in the Education Reform Act was the creation of a national curriculum for all students of compulsory school age in England and Wales, with national assessments for all 7, 11 and 14-year-olds, the results of which, at least for those of 11 and 14-year-olds, were to be published for each school.

Although it was claimed that these results would also be useful for informing parents of the academic progress of their children, the information on the attainment of 7, 11 and 14-year-olds is not available until June or July, and is therefore far too late to influence choices of junior or secondary schools, or of subject options in upper secondary school. The primary purpose of national curriculum assessment is to provide information on the performance of schools, rather than individuals, in order to inform parental choice.

Over the ten years since the development and implementation of the national curriculum, however, it has become clear that parents and students have not relied exclusively, or even primarily, on aggregate measures of the academic achievement of students in selecting schools as might have been hoped for by the proponents of the Education Reform Act (see for example, Gewirtz, Ball & Bowe, 1995). A range of other factors, such as the appropriateness of the school for the individual child, are also taken into account.

More recently, however, the pressure on schools to improve their students’ performance on national curriculum tests and in national examinations has been increased by the use of aggregate measures of student performance in the national system of school inspections. The original report of the National Curriculum Task Group on Assessment and Testing (1988) proposed a system of reporting national curriculum assessment results that would allow the increase in students’ attainment over a period of schooling (the so-called ‘value-added’) to be reported alongside any absolute measures of achievement. Despite the considerable technical difficulties in agreeing an operational definition of ‘value-added’ (Wiliam, 1992; Jesson, 1996), it is government policy that such value-added measures of achievement should be published alongside absolute measures of students’ academic performance.

In view of this, the insistence of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools (Office for Standards in Education, 1997) that inspections of schools take into account absolute levels of achievement in schools, irrespective of the students’ prior attainment, seems rather perverse. While it cannot be denied that there are considerable variations in the academic success of schools drawing students from similar cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, to subject a school to ‘special measures’ (the preliminary stage of a process that can result in the school being closed) because its students arrive at the school with lower attainment than might be expected for their age is clearly unjust. More importantly for the purpose of the present study, it creates a situation in which schools, particularly those in socio-economically disadvantaged areas, are under pressure to increase the indices of performance (eg the proportion of students achieving a given level in the national curriculum tests) at almost any price.

The effects of such ‘top-down’ attempts to improve educational provision on teachers and on school communities have been the subject of extensive studies (see, for example, Corbett & Wilson, 1991), but apart from the work of Rudduck, Chaplain & Wallance (1995) with secondary school students, there is virtually no literature which engages with students’ perspectives. Rather it is in the silences in relation to children’s perspectives that it is assumed either that national curriculum assessments have minimal impact on children’s subjectivities or that children’s concerns and attitudes are merely a backdrop to the assessment process; simply part of the social context. On the one hand the interplay between the assessment process and children’s identities and identifications is not considered an important area for research and theoretical consideration, while on the other hand children are subsumed as a means to an end within a process which is primarily an exercise in evaluating schools and teachers. However, despite the former assumption that their agency is unaffected by the assessments and the latter assumption that they are passively caught up in a process where the main focus is teachers and the institution, children are simultaneously active in the assessment process and profoundly affected by it.

The research study

Patricia Broadfoot describes the assessment arrangements for national curriculum assessment as an example of the ways in which apparently benign and rational techniques of assessment are currently being used to impose norms by reducing value debates to technical questions (Broadfoot, 1996). However, the consequences of the new assessment system for pupils has been overlooked in much of the research which examines changes in assessment. This small-scale study attempts to highlight the importance of considering children’s perspectives on assessment if we are to glimpse the extent to which new subjectivities are being constructed in the primary classroom. The article draws on empirical data to provide some preliminary indications of the impact of national curriculum assessment on Year 6 (age 10 to 11) students’ self definitions as learners. The focus of the current paper is a class of twenty students in Windermere School—a south London primary school serving a predominantly working-class, ethnically-mixed, community, and whose students typically achieve levels slightly below the national average. The students were interviewed in both focus groups and individually over the Easter term about their attitudes towards, and feelings about, impending national curriculum tests. Additionally, both the children and their class teacher were observed over the term as increasing amounts of time were devoted to test preparation.

Explanatory note

National curriculum assessment at the ages of 7, 11 and 14 (the end of each of the first three ‘key stages’ of compulsory education) consists of two components—a series of judgements made be the school about a student’s performance over the key stage, generally called ‘teacher assessment’ and an externally set standardised assessment. When the first national curriculum assessments for seven-year-olds were introduced in 1991, the external assessments were called ‘standard assessment tasks’ or SATs, following the recommendation of the TGAT report (National Curriculum Task Group on Assessment and Testing, 1988). However, following representations from Educational Testing Services, the New Jersey-based developers of the American Scholastic Aptitude Test, which is known by the same acronym, the term Standard Assessment Task was changed to Standard Tasks. Furthermore, when the format for the first assessments at key stage 3, held in 1992, was changed from that originally prescribed by Kenneth Clark, then Secretary of State for Education, the name of the external component of key stage 3 national curriculum assessment was changed to ‘national curriculum tests’, as was that for the first key stage 2 assessments when they were introduced two years later. The external components of key stage 2 national curriculum assessment have therefore never been called “SATs”, but teachers, students and parents continue to refer to them in this way, and so, for simplicity of presentation, we have followed this usage.

The SATs: shifting identifications as learners

Hannah: I’m really scared about the SATs. Ms. O'Brien [a teacher at the school] came and talked to us about our spelling and I’m no good at spelling and David [the class teacher] is giving us times tables tests every morning and I’m hopeless at times tables so I’m frightened I’ll do the SATs and I’ll be a nothing.

DR: I don’t understand Hannah. You can’t be a nothing.

Hannah: Yes, you can ‘cause you have to get a level like a level 4 or a level 5 and if you’re no good at spellings and times tables you don’t get those levels and so you’re a nothing.

DR: I’m sure that’s not right.

Hannah: Yes it is ‘cause that’s what Ms. O'Brien was saying.

This is a particularly stark example but it exemplifies some of the ways in which children’s identifications as learners (Skeggs, 1997) are constructed through the assessment process. For Hannah what constitutes academic success is correct spelling and knowing your times tables. She is an accomplished writer, a gifted dancer and artist and good at problem solving yet none of those skills make her somebody in her own eyes. Instead she constructs herself as a failure, an academic non-person, by a metonymic shift in which she come to see herself entirely in terms of the level to which her performance in the SATs is ascribed. The fever pitch in her classroom surrounding the impending SATs, generated in no small part by the class’s teacher, reinforces Hannah’s self-assessment:

I was appalled by how most of you did on the science test. You don’t know anything. I want to say that you are judged at the end of the day by what you get in the SATs and some of you wont even get level 2.

Some children resist and challenge such all embracing assignments; for example Terry was outraged by his teacher’s comment and shouted out, “Hold on we’re not that bad”. However, others like Hannah appear to accept and internalise its strictures.

Hannah’s account underscores the extent to which SATs have set in motion a new set of tensions with which year 6 students are expected to cope. Nearly all were anxious about failure. The overall impression from the year 6 interviews was that most pupils took the SATs very seriously. They wanted to do well. At the same time, children expressed a great deal of concern about the narrow focus of the SATs and not being able to produce their best under strict (and unfamiliar) test conditions. Their concerns seem to be borne out by research into the validity of the key stage 2 English SATs:

Nicely rounded handwriting and reasonable spelling of fairly simple words seemed to impress some markers favourably. In contrast, idiosyncratic or jerky handwriting with insecure spellings seemed to prejudice some markers against the content. (Close, Furlong and Simon 1997: 4.30)

The students also seemed very aware of the (not-so) hidden agenda surrounding SATs:

Mary: SATs are about how good the teachers have been teaching you and if everybody gets really low marks they think the teachers haven’t been teaching you properly.


DR: So what are the SATs for?

Jackie: To see if the teachers have taught us anything.

Terry: If we don’t know nothing then the teacher will get all the blame.

Jackie: Yeah. It’s the teacher’s fault.

Tunde: Yeah. They get blamed.

Yet, despite frequent rationalisations that SATs were primarily judgements of teaching, nearly all the children indicated a sense of unease and feelings of discomfort about what SATs might reveal about themselves as learners. Some of the children seemed to be indicating far-reaching consequences in which good SATs results were linked to positive life prospects and, concomitantly, poor results meant future failures and hardships:

Sharon: I think I’ll get a two, only Stuart will get a six.

DR: So if Stuart gets a six what will that say about him?

Sharon: He’s heading for a good job and a good life and it shows he’s not gonna be living on the streets and stuff like that.

DR: And if you get a level two what will that say about you?

Sharon: Um, I might not have a good life in front of me and I might grow up and do something naughty or something like that.

In three of the focus group sessions the children drew on an apocalyptic tale of “the boy who ruined his chances”. Below is an excerpt from the girls’ focus group but both the boys’ and the mixed group referred to the same example in order to exemplify how things can go terribly wrong in the SATs if you don’t make the right choices:

Norma: There was someone so good at writing stories …

Mary: Yeah, and he wrote a leaflet …

Norma: He picked to write a leaflet and then when he wrote the leaflet he blew it.

Lily He just ruined his whole SAT. He ruined it. If he’d written the story he would have got a really good mark. He was the best at writing stories. And he thought he wanted to try it out … and he just ruined it for himself.

Norma: Miss O'Brien said that he was … what was the word, kind of scared thing…?

DR Got in a panic.

Norma: Yeah, and he didn’t do the story because he thought he would get that wrong.

Mary: So he did the leaflet and he just ruined his chances, totally ruined his chances.

In this excerpt and the others, performance in SATs is about far more than simply getting a test right or wrong, it is conflated in the children’s minds with future prospects. To perform badly is “to ruin one’s chances”. At other times there was far more disputation and contention about the importance of SATs for future prospects:

DR: So are they important, SATs?

Lily: Depends

Tunde: Yes

Terry: No, definitely not.

Lewis: It does effect your life

Ayse: Yeah, it does affect your life

Terry: No, as if it means you know I do badly then that means I’m gonna be a road sweeper.

However, while Terry is clear that SATs have no impact on future prospects, other students lack his certainty:

DR: You mean, you think that if you do badly in SATS then you won’t be able to do well or get good jobs?

Jackie: Yeah, ‘cause that’s what David’s saying.

DR: What is he saying?

Jackie: He’s saying if we don’t like, get good things, in our SATS, when we grow up we are not gonna get good jobs and…

Terry: Be plumbers and road-sweepers…

Tunde: But what if you wanted to do that?

DR: Instead of what?

Terry: Footballers, singers, vets, archaeologists. We ain’t gonna be nothing like that if we don’t get high levels.

DR: And does that worry you about your future?

Jackie: Yeah.

Lewis: Yeah.

Ayse: Yeah it worries me a lot

Terry: No, because he’s telling fibs.

Assessment in English schooling in the late 1990s is surrounded by controversy and disputation (Black, 1997). It has become a political football. Yet, despite heavily contested changes there are enduring continuities. Students have always informally assessed their own academic performance and that of their peers. 6G is no different. There is unanimous agreement among the children that Stuart is the cleverest child in the class and almost unanimous agreement that Peter is the second cleverest:

Norma: Stuart is the cleverest child in the whole school. He’ll get level 6 for everything.

In this short excerpt cleverness is very clearly conflated with doing well in the SATs. There is an assumption of causation; being clever automatically leads to good SATs results. Yet, later on Norma talks about her own nervousness and how that might affect her own performance in the same tests:

Norma: I’m no good at tests. I get too nervous so I know I won’t do very well.

Patricia Broadfoot writes of the elements of panoptic surveillance embedded in assessment processes whereby pupils learn to judge themselves “as if some external eye was constantly monitoring their performance” (Broadfoot 1995, p68), encouraging the internalisation of the evaluative criteria of those in power.

Because the commitment to technical efficiency is increasingly being incorporated at the level of meaning and volition, as well as that of practice, this provides pressure for the non-bureaucratic, potentially contradictory languages of professionalism and democratic participation to define their own criteria of value and, hence, personal accountability in the same terms. (Broadfoot 1996 pp239-240)

One result is a strong pressure on both pupils and teachers to assume that value can be quantified.

Belief systems concerning the individual should not be construed as inhabiting a diffuse field of ‘culture’, but as embodied in institutional and technical practices—through which forms of individuality are specified and governed. The history of the self should be written at this ‘technological’ level, in terms of the techniques and evaluations for developing, evaluating, perfecting, managing the self, the way it is rendered into words, made visible, inspected, judged and reformed. (Rose, 1989: 218)

The battle over assessment and the triumph of publishable, measurement-based, competitive, pencil and paper tests over diagnostic, open-ended, process-oriented assessments has resulted in the establishment of assessment procedures which operate primarily “as performance indicators of teacher effectivity” (Ball 1994: 41). At the macro-level SATs can be seen as regulatory mechanisms that link the conduct of individuals and organisations to political objectives; the assumption being that they will impact powerfully on teachers’ subjectivities and practices. However, as the children’s discussions quoted above illustrate, at the micro-level of the classroom there are regular glimpses of the normalising and regulatory function of the SATs on children.

Perhaps Tracey provides the best example of ‘the governance of the soul’ (Rose 1989):

Tracey: I think even now, at night times I think about it and I think I’m going to get them.

DR: You think about your SATs at night time?

Tracey: Yeah, lots. When I’m in bed, because I’ve got stars on my ceiling, I’m hoping and I look up and I go, “I know I’m gonna get there”. And my mum goes, “Who’s talking in there?” And I goes, “Nothing mum”.

DR: So what are you hoping?

Tracey: Um, I think about a three. I dunno. I don’t think I’ll get a five. I’m hoping to get a five. When I look at the stars I hope I’ll get a five.

Allan Hanson writes about the increasing disposition of American students to define themselves in terms of test scores, citing an example of college students who displayed their scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test on their tee-shirts (Hanson, 1993). While we are not suggesting that processes of quantifying academic ability were anything like as extreme as Hanson found in some American colleges, there were disturbing shifts in how children viewed themselves and others, which could be attributed to the assessment process and the ways in which the classroom pedagogy transformed in response to the imminence of the SATs.

Assessment procedures are implicated in technologies of the self and the struggle to gain ‘intimate and secure’ social relations—intimate because they feed into the ordering of subjectivity, and secure because of the apparent naturalness of the categories they generate (Donald, 1985). As the term progressed children increasingly referred to the levels they expected themselves and others to achieve. Their talk raises concerns about the crudeness of the assessments to which pupils have access. The SATs levels constitute very simplistic judgements purged of any subtlety and complexity about the sort of learners pupils are judged to be.

Children’s emotional responses to assessment

As is evident throughout the children’s texts cited above, there are strong currents of fear and anxiety permeating children’s relationships to the SATs process:

Tunde: Because if you get too scared or something, or paranoid, or something it kind of stops you from doing it, because you just think you are going to get everything wrong and its easy to get paranoid about the SATs.


DR: Norma, why are you worried about SATS now?

Norma: Well, it seems like I’ll get no points or I won’t be able to do it, too hard or something.

DR: What would it mean to get no points?

Norma: Well instead of being level three I’ll be a nothing and do badly—very badly

DR: What makes you think that? Have you been practising?

Norma: No, like I analyse … I know I worry about loads of things.

DR: Like what?

Norma: I don’t know, I just worry about things and my mum is going to take me to a special aromatherapy lady, or something like that. I don’t know, but she said something about that because I am always panicking and I’ve been worrying about when it’s SATs.

DR But no-one was mentioning SATs last term, were they? What’s made everybody start worrying about it now?

Norma: Miss O'Brien came in today and she was doing language and she said loads of things, well not language, but dictionaries and she said loads of things about SATs.

DR And you got in a panic.

Norma: {Laughing} Well, not in a big panic, it was just like, what if I get stuck here and I don’t finish the story and I don’t get any points or things like that.


Stuart: What if I get level one?

DR: You won’t get level one. Honestly, I’m quite positive you won’t get level one.

Stuart: I might in English since Miss O'Brien told us about that boy messing up his chances I’ve been worried about it ‘cause it’s the sort of thing I could do.

After children have marked each others’ practice mathematics SATs there is the ritual recounting of marks. Nadia, Mary, Jessica, Terry, Peter and Lewis have all got 20 but a big commotion breaks out when the others realise Stuart has only got 16. Peter says, “God did you really only get 16?”. Simon tells him, “Your brain must have stopped working”, while Lewis comments, “He’s lost his genius man”. Stuart rather forlornly comments, “At this rate I’m only going to get level one for Maths”.

Impact on pedagogy and curriculum offer

Many studies have examined the consequences of high-stakes assessment systems on the breadth of curriculum that students experience (see, for example, Kellaghan, Madaus and Airasian, 1982). However, almost all of these studies have taken an ‘outsider’s’ perspective on curricular changes. Even where studies have attempted to work from an ‘insider’s’ perspective, it has been assumed that the students themselves have little to contribute on this aspect of the social consequences of test use (Messick, 1980). However, the evidence from the current study is that students as young as 11 have very clear perceptions about the influence of external assessment on the curriculum:

Jackie: We’ve already had SATs. We’ve been doing them for so long, all the old papers we must have done, we must have done three SATs already.

A narrowing of the curriculum was very evident in 6G over the Spring term and was a cause of both complaint and regret among the children:

Lewis: I wish we did Technology.

Jackie: Yeah, that would be good.

Tunde: We should do more Dance. We should have Dance in the SATs.

Terry: And they never teach you anything about cavemen either.

Ayse: And we don’t do History any more.

Terry: All I know is because I’ve read about it on my own.

Ayse: And we don’t do Geography. Only Science, Language and Maths. Just over and over again.

DR: So is the curriculum very different this term to what it was last term?

Terry: Yeah.

Jackie: Last year we done music and dance, interesting things.

Terry: The best thing we did is P.E. And last week was the best session we’ve had in ages ’cause it was something different. And I hate football and it was football but it was the best session we done in ages.

But it was the emphasis on more individualised, competitive ways of working, which were increasingly displacing the mutually supportive, collaborative group work to which the children were accustomed—a shift from a ‘communitarian climate’ to ‘academic press’ (Phillips, 1997)—that caused the most disquiet:

Tunde: Peter helped me, Peter and Lewis.

Terry: But we’re not allowed to help, to help anyone, they’re all on your own.

Jackie: Yeah, but we’re used to helping each other.

Lewis: I still help people.

Jackie: So do I.

Ayse: I didn’t get no help.

Terry: We’re not allowed to help any more. It’s cheating.

Progressive primary schools like Windermere have not traditionally been subject to processes of overt differentiation and polarisation (Lacey 1970). Such processes have normally been found in selective secondary schools where streaming and setting are common practice. However, there were indications of both increasing differentiation and polarisation in the class under study (6G) with negative repercussions for both teacher-pupil and pupil-pupil interaction.

During the 60 hours of participant observation that was carried out in 6G over the course of the spring term 1998, there were innumerable mundane examples of overt academic differentiation as a direct consequence of the teacher’s increasing preoccupation with SATs. Concomitantly, there were many examples within the peer group of the deepening of existing divisions, as well as the opening up of new divisions based on academic rather than social criteria as a direct result of SATs and SATs practice, of which the two examples described below are only the most stark.

In March 1998 the children were working their way individually through an old science SATs paper. Fumi had protested at the beginning of the session when told the children were expected to work on their own, telling the teacher, “But we’re used to working together”. Every few minutes she would sigh audibly until eventually the teacher came across to where she was sitting and proceeded to put lines through a number of the SATs questions, commenting, “Don’t try and do these. They’ll be too difficult for you. Answer the easy ones”. Fumi struggled on for a few more minutes. It was clear to the researcher and the children sitting near her that she was crying. After a few more minutes she got to her feet, pushing her chair out of the way and stormed out the classroom, sobbing. Out in the corridor she kept on repeating over and over again “He thinks I’m thick. He thinks I’m thick. He wants all the others to think I’m thick”. As we have discussed earlier children did engage in informal assessments of each others’ academic ability, but prior to the SATs such processes had a benign air and had never resulted in confrontations between either the teacher and a student or between students. Even when Fumi was eventually coaxed back into the classroom she was openly rebellious, scribbling all over the SATs paper and muttering “I hate you” under her breath at the teacher—behaviour which resulted in her missing her playtime.

More worrying was the consequences of regular SATs practice for Stuart’s positioning within the peer group. In the interview sessions, carried out over the autumn term, children often compared themselves academically to Stuart, citing him as the cleverest child in the class. Such comments were presented simply as statements of fact and there was no malice or ill-feeling expressed. However, towards the end of the Easter term with a programme of daily maths tests and regular science and English SATs practice, Stuart’s situation among the peer group, particularly with the other boys, was becoming increasingly vulnerable. On one occasion, after the teacher had pointed out that Stuart was the only child to get 20 out of 20 for the Maths test and that everybody else must try to do better, Terry leaned over and thumped him hard in the back. Twice Stuart came back from playtime with scratches either to his cheek or the back of his neck. He was not sure ‘exactly who was responsible’ but complained that the other boys had started to “gang up” on him. The language other children used to describe him shifted discernibly. Before he had simply been recognised as clever; now he was increasingly labelled as “a swot” by both girls and boys. There are frequent entries in the fieldnotes which testify to an growing climate of hostility towards Stuart. For example:

Jolene: I hate Stuart, he’s just a teacher’s pet—a spotty swotty”


Alice: Stuart’s such a clever clogs that’s why no-one like him.

DR: But you said you liked him.

Alice: That’s before he started showing off.

But Stuart had not started to show off. Rather, the classroom practices in 6G over the spring term had dramatically increased processes of differentiation which in turn had led to a growing polarisation among the peer group. In particular, the relationship between Stuart and the rest of 6G noticeably worsened. Conclusion

While we make no claims that the shifts in both the children’s self perceptions and the teaching regime in 6G over the course of the term are representative of all year 6 classrooms we would argue that what our evidence does indicate is a need for further investigation to map out the extent to which both pupil and teacher identities and practices are being modified through new assessment processes. We believe that the data that we have presented here provides convincing evidence that students as young as 10 or 11 are well aware of the effects of national curriculum assessments, and their voices are an important part of any picture of the social consequences of the use of test results as measures of educational effectiveness.

The threat to the continued existence of a school posed by poor SATs results creates a situation in which individual teachers are under increasing pressure to improve the scores achieved by the students, irrespective of the consequence for students’ achievement in wider terms. For some, this may be exactly what was intended. By asserting that national curriculum assessments embody all that is valid, the narrowing of the experiences of students to just those aspects that can be assessed in a one-hour written test represents a return to the certainties of the ‘curriculum of the dead’ (Ball, 1993). However, it seems to us far more likely that for most observers, this narrowing of the focus of assessment, together with an emphasis on achieving the highest scores possible produces a situation in which unjustifiable educational practices are not only possible, but encouraged. Whether ‘teaching to the test’ in this way is regarded as cheating or not is open to question (Smith, 1991), but there is no doubt that such activities rob national curriculum assessments of the power to say anything useful about what the students have learnt. The more specific the government is about what it is that schools are to achieve, the more likely it is to get it, but the less likely it is to mean anything.

The teacher of the class we have been describing is relatively inexperienced, and therefore, perhaps, less able to resist the pressure to concentrate on the narrow range of achievements assessed in the SATs. However, as the government’s new requirements on schools to set targets for aggregate school and individual achievement increases pressure on schools to improve measured performance, it seems more than likely that students will be inscribed into school practices entirely in terms of their ability to contribute to the school’s target for the proportion of students achieving specified levels in the national curriculum assessments.


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Address for correspondence: Dr Diane Reay, King’s College London School of Education, Cornwall House, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8WA, Tel: 0171 872 3093; Fax: 0171 872 3182; Email:


Pseudonym           Name                

Jessie              Hannah              

Terry               Rikki               

Tunde               Mapule              

Norma               Yolanda             

Tracey              Leeza               

Jackie              Lauren              

Stuart              Owen                

Mary                Elizabeth           

Ms, O’Brien         Ms. O’Connor        

David               Richard             

Sharon              Kelly               

Lily                Lily                

Ayse                Ayse                

Lewis               Lewis               

Jolene              Jolene              

Alice               Alice               

Peter               Peter               

Mailaka             Fumi                

This document was added to the Education-line database 17 September 1998