New Wales reading and numeracy tests begin in schools
Pupils aged seven to 14 have begun sitting new reading and numeracy tests in schools across Wales as part of efforts to drive up standards.
Education Minister Leighton Andrews says the exams will provide a national picture of how pupils are performing.
He says it will mean teachers can help those falling behind earlier.
Last year, Wales lagged behind England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
End Quote Leighton Andrews AM Education Minister
Up until now, schools have used their own tests to assess how learners are progressing but, because schools have used different tests, there is no clear, national picture of how learners are really performing”
Mr Andrews says the exams, taking place over the next fortnight, will make it easier for teachers to identify pupils' individual strengths and weaknesses.
The reading test will include a statutory "core" test and optional test material, and the numeracy test is split into two parts.
The first numeracy exam, being sat this year, is a series of questions to assess basic numeracy skills such as addition, multiplication and division.
The second test of numeracy, which will be introduced next May, will assess pupils ability to solve problems involving numbers they are likely to face in everyday life.
Mr Andrews said: "We know from the international PISA assessment in 2010 and from reports by [school inspection body] Estyn that literacy and numeracy standards in Welsh schools need to improve.
"Up until now, schools have used their own tests to assess how learners are progressing but, because schools have used different tests, there is no clear, national picture of how learners are really performing.
"We are now moving to a system of testing that is clear, consistent and rigorous and will help teachers to identify learners' individual strengths and weaknesses and intervene earlier if they feel a learner is falling behind."
Mr Andrews said the Welsh government was providing £700,000 for schools for the extra costs of conducting the exams.
The Welsh government stopped standard assessment tests in schools 2004.