Open Letter from Let Our Kids Be Kids – the voice of tens of thousands of parents

Open Letter from Let Our Kids Be Kids – the voice of tens of thousands of parents who want an end to SAT testing NOW.

Dear Nicky Morgan,

We are aware that you’ve been flooded with open letters recently but this one is a bit different. We’re writing from everybody. We represent the voice of parents across the country. Parents are everybody. They are teachers, they are junior doctors, they are steel workers, they are speech therapists, neuro scientists, academics, small business owners, stay at home mums. Parents aren’t people you can dismiss into a single box; parents are everybody that you were voted in to serve.

  • Children as young as 6 are labelling themselves failures and crying about going to school. We know this because we are parents.
  • The capacity for children of this age to actually learn the concepts you have asked them to learn is questionable. We know this because parents are also neuro scientists.
  • Children’s mental health is at risk because of the increased pressure they face through primary school testing. We know this because parents are also mental health nurses.
  • By the time these children reach secondary school they are turned off education. We know this because parents are also secondary teachers
  • Children who have been taught in a system obsessed with passing tests rather than learning for learning’s sake enter the world of work unprepared. We know this because parents are also business owners.
  • By the time children who have been through this exam factory end up at university they have to be re taught how to learn in a curious way. We know this because parents are also academics.

The other interesting thing about parents is that they aren’t employed or paid by you. You can’t dismiss our concerns as being about pay or holidays or pension plans… our priority is the happiness and wellbeing of our children.

You’ve said some interesting things about parents but rest assured that we are parents who would most definitely discuss the issue of education with you if you were to turn up on our doorsteps. We are parents who do feel that elections can be won or lost on educational matters. There are tens of thousands of us and we have reached the point when it is time for us to speak. We need you to listen.

We’re not convinced, based on your track record, that you’ll listen to just words so, to make it very clear how strongly we feel, we are also planning a day of action with a Kids’ Strike on 3rd May  (#KidsStrike3rdMay) which will see thousands of primary school children staying off school IN SUPPORT of teachers and schools and in protest at the DfE’s testing policies. We want an end to SATs NOW. Not in 2017, not in the future. NOW.

Perhaps the government hoped that this mass parental revolt would be extinguished following the shambolic cancellation of KS1 SPaG test? This has simply added fuel to the fire. It merely demonstrates how little thought goes into your decisions and shows that you do think teacher assessment is a good enough tool to use.

You have dismissed the concerns of pupil stress and anxiety caused by the SATs by blaming our wonderful teachers for not administering tests in an appropriate manner. We say to you that this is utter nonsense. Teachers would be insane to allow our children to face these tests unprepared. The new curriculum related to these tests demands that teachers teach a dulled down, test driven curriculum to our children for months in advance. Since you and your inspectors put so much emphasis on test scores for your league tables can you blame schools for trying to get the best out of our children? We don’t blame them. We blame you and your government’s ridiculous testing regime.

A marvellous quote was posted to our campaign page:

“Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he is not interested, it is like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.”

Your government has effectively spent millions of pounds of tax payers’ money chucking marshmallows at our children’s heads. You’ve had some wonderful teachers trying their hardest to chuck these marshmallows about but no matter how hard they try they are still missing… because these children are in the vast majority of cases simply not mentally ready to learn the material you have placed in front of them. It’s a bit like teaching an 8 year old to drive a sports car or a 6 month old to walk… it’s not going to happen.

You have got it wrong. We give you a score of zero for this. You have failed. Please resit your submission for devising an appropriate testing system. Or you could just leave it to the experts in the field, the trained teachers, next time.

Conspiracies abound that this is all part of the enforced academies plan. Making SATs so hard that schools inevitably fail means that your academy business leaders can come in and rescue ‘failing’ schools… leaving them completely unaccountable to parents. You will never have to listen to us again! It’s good to have a plan… just not a plan which leaves millions of children as assets and the education of our children as a commodity… that would in fact be a truly awful plan.

Please take a long, hard look at this. Do you want your legacy to be the confident cancellation of unneeded and unnecessary SATS, showing you are listening to your electorate and the teachers you claim to support… or the overseeing of a shambolic testing regime desperately unwanted by millions of people to the point that this country saw its first open parent revolt?

You have the power to stop these tests. NOW. Our children, our teachers and our schools deserve better than this.

With sincere hope that you are listening, on behalf of the tens of thousands of supporters of ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids’.

PDF Version of our letter: Letter to Nicky Morgan

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26 thoughts on “Open Letter from Let Our Kids Be Kids – the voice of tens of thousands of parents

  1. The pressure on the EYFS and Early Year Practitioners is getting just as ridiculous.
    The concept of learning through play is becoming a thing of the past. parental involvement is proving more and more difficult to achieve. the expectations on EYFS Managers is causing unnecessary stress and anxiety.

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  2. In the last few weeks I have seen this matter grow and grow because so many people are passionate about the well-being of our children. I have also read some amazing points and arguments from people who are actually in the child caring profession. What educated and knowing people you are. It makes a change from listening to out of touch people who know nothing about the role and industry they are supposed to be in. We need a committee of people from all walks of education whose qualification should be they have actually worked with children and understand them. Yes. even people like myself who haven’t managed to get a C in maths but has an amazing passion for what I have done for the last 30 years and is a parent as well to two grown up level headed children. Lets keep the momentum going on this. I am so proud to be part of this profession

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  3. What a fantastic letter. I’m a parent, teacher and early years consultant. I’ve heard and seenot shocking practice in the pursuit of results. Thank you so much for doing this for parents, families, teachers, children and all of those who care about our future.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My daughter home schools as the local schools cannot deal with real issues facing kids … Her choice is too home school her three boys and they play ..go to forest school…science clubs .. golf ..swimming and the learn through social interaction with kids of all ages and guess what .. they learn … Funny that x

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  5. my daughters home schooled for all above reasons,
    and shes happy
    and that’s what matters,
    kids learn when there ready and when there not stressed out ,
    and shes doing very well,
    shes a great gardener,
    so she wont starve!
    shes a great singer,
    so she can entertain herself,
    shes great with folk,(young and old)
    so she,ll never be unloved ,
    WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED
    And I don’t know many 11yr olds doing ,
    opera class,
    cooking for old folk in a rest home,
    or going to places of interest ALL YEAR AROUND

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  6. Well said and THANK YOU – this is a remarkable letter – inspiring and action provoking. As a parent, midwife and primary school teacher I am horrified by what is being asked of our children in the new SATs tests – none of which is inspiring a love a learning but setting our children up to fail. I am not prone to conspiracy theories but on this one would not be surprised by an underlying political agenda about setting schools up to fail, and therefore opening the door to justifying the imposition of academies. Any agenda that does not hold the people involved (in this case children and teachers) at its heart is way off course.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This letter is great at pointing out what we are doing to our children. I am the mother of two primary school children and a secondary school teacher. This year has seen my son transition into key stage 2. He has felt the intense pressure placed on him and struggles with it. From the conversations I have had with other parents in his class many of their kids also struggle. The stress and tension this causes them, which then impacts on the whole family can’t be under estimated. What happens in school doesn’t just stay there it has ripples that reach into every home and into every relationship in every community. What we are doing to our kids has far reaching consequences for society and humanity. As a secondary school teacher I see how kids come out the other end. At the moment I am supporting post 16s with a GCSE re-take. These are the kids who have technically “failed” in the system but are still ploughing on within it. Many of them are simply going through the motions but are de-motivated and incredibly given up with little to no self belief, no sense of purpose or much self awareness. When we do what we do to our kids many of them lack independence of thought and any real presence preferring instead to check out or numb themselves with a whole host of activities. What kind of relationships are our teenagers and young people having, firstly with themselves and then with others? I don’t see a real loving, responsible quality there for many! This starts early as this letter points out and it is important that we start to acknowledge what is going on, but instead of being overwhelmed by it it is important to be secure in the understanding that this is something we have all allowed, and that it is possible to collectively take responsibility and make our voices heard.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This letter very clearly outlines the impacts of relentless testing. I am a secondary school teacher and see the effects of testing on my students. I see this in the form of stress and anxiety. I see the focus of education being placed on examination and test results at the expense of the wellbeing of students and at the expense of an ethos and environment in which wellbeing is encouraged and nurtured. I see test results being prioritised over the wellbeing of teachers who have unrealistic and impossible outcomes to achieve. I see students being spoon fed in order to pass and little room for meaningful learning to take place. The students move on to the next level and remain without the skills to deliver tasks because they have been quickly moved through a system that just wants to see them get a result, no matter how it is achieved.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Wow, this letter is needed. It is time that parents and teachers came together in protest about the changes to curriculum testing. As a primary school teacher of 25years I have observed the subtle shifts and twists of testing through time. In my early career assessment was used quietly, as a much-needed tool to understand the point at which a child reached in their learning. SATS didn’t exist and children entered secondary school without them. With the conception of League Tables in the early 1990’s schools felt under pressure to jostle for their ranking, their pupil numbers and their funding. Inspection became the fear word the county over. Assessment stopped being about the child and everything to do with each school’s identity and reputation.

    The problem today is that Ofsted is forever changing the goal posts and the pressure schools are under to reach the elusive ‘outstanding’ mark is enormous. This stress and strain by natural order passes down to the children we care for. This is unacceptable. Learning should be fun, engaging and joyful in every way.

    This year, the level that children aged 6 and 11 are now required to get to is unachievable for the vast majority. Many year 3 children would struggle to complete the year 2 SATs test and ask most adults to sit the Year 6 spelling, grammar and punctuation test and they wouldn’t be able to complete it. We cannot allow a generation of children to feel that they have failed because we have set the bar way too high in the name of improving standards. Parents of current year 6 children have shared with me the tears, stress and stain their children express at home because of the demands placed on them at school. We cannot ignore the long lasting consequences of this as children begin to shut down their commitment to learning and to life. By secondary school many students have had enough and simply give up.

    As teachers we know how our pupils and students feel, we know what serves and supports them to learn and what does not. Putting our heads together as
    Teachers, parents and policy makers we can change the quality that our students experience daily. Instead of building pressure and stress we can create learning environments that foster commitment to learning, being open and living with vitality and a love for life.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. i couldnt agree more with both open letter and replies. my 7year old august birthday, took her sats last year age 6!. luckily she was not put under any pressure at school , and hardly any mention of sats at home, in fact im not even sure she was aware of them at all, they are completely irrelevent to me. i have 3 kids and have never allowed any of them to be under pressure with sats, should my daughter have problems with year 6 sats i will simply remove her during this time. i am at a complete loss with the way our government interferes with our kids education.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Reblogged this on kirstwrites and commented:
    Last year I saw for myself the pressure children in Year 6 were put under with the end of primary school SATS. My daughter was taught to jump through hoops and ended up with top marks, but was bitterly unhappy, and a year later actually can’t remember any of it. It’s horrible to think that they’re making these tests even tougher. One thing’s for certain, I won’t be letting her little sister sit these tests in a couple of years.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Great letter – thank you for writing on our behalf.

    I have been given a pack of practice year 2 SAT test papers to work through with my almost 7 year old. I was shocked at what is expected from such young children. I refuse to make my child study for these texts, especially as she receives homework daily. In the Netherlands kids don’t start school until 7 and are educated through play and experience. We should look to them for insiration. Due to the pressre to perform and succed, My daughter hates school, which is so saddening. Our government need to listen to us parents and re-think the expectations they are placing on schools, teachers and our children.

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  13. I don’t have children myself although I do work in the education system and even before then when I was a student myself have always been dubious about the benefits of exams. For me it was all about memorising a load of stuff and then being able to regurgitate it onto an exam paper, quickly forgetting it all shortly after it had finished. I do remember finding this process very stressful and it wasn’t something I was very good at. And then on not getting a great result, feeling disappointed with myself and almost ashamed that I wasn’t getting high grades. Now I find myself teaching students how to pass exams; exam technique, types of questions to expect, timing, what topics to revise, dealing with stress etc. And I have to say I don’t feel like I am giving these students a ‘good’ education, I am just helping them get better at the skill of doing an exam so that they can get through an education system. What I’d prefer to be doing is teaching them things that will help them in all areas of life so that they can think and act for themselves…. ‘life’ skills instead of ‘exam’ skills. And what I am seeing is much further down the system when the students are young late teens/young adults. They are suffering all kinds of stress related symptoms, and certainly none of them are embracing life and rejoicing in the fact they are learning; its more like they are desperately trying to survive. So to be putting children as young as 7 through the same thing is ridiculous and potentially highly damaging to a whole generation of people who will be going through this. It’s no wonder that I know people who consider living abroad to start family so that their children don’t have to suffer in the same way.

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    • We think you were referring to the following text? If so the point we were making is that Nicky Morgan has said that due to the Spelling Punctuation and Grammar(SPaG) cancellation part of SATs for 6 and 7 year old children, teacher assessments only will be used to measure children’s ability in 2016.

      It merely demonstrates how little thought goes into your decisions and shows that you do think teacher assessment is a good enough tool to use.

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  14. We need to defend the EYFS learning through play curriculum with all our hearts. Not only defend it, but push to extend it. Children worldwide learn through play until 6 or 7 years old. Primary school should be about creating confident, resilient, independent learners – not exam fodder.

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  15. I retired 10 years ago as an English Adviser in Wales. I’m appalled by what I see happening in England. Can I urge you to get some neurologists on board? I’m no expert in this field, but I understand that there is clear evidence that the brain is most receptive to learning when one is happy. Morgan is a charlatan, and won’t be convinced by evidence from the classroom, but if scientific evidence showed she was on the wrong track, it might help.
    It might be a good idea to get hold of Kenneth Baker too. Whatever his faults, he recognised the value of a broad and balanced curriculum. Also he launched an inquiry into the teaching of English language which resulted in the Kingman Report to which the profession was invited to respond. The KS 2 SATs are a world away from Kingman.

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    • Good idea re the scientific evidence for learning being most effective when a person is happy and this is certainly true. However, this government has demonstrated time and again that they are not interested in evidence, only in what they believe to be ‘right’.

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  16. I have read and agree with what has been written we cannot improve children by testing them and deeming them failures from reception class onwards . The content of the tests is way beyond their capabilities and endless cramming only makes their despair deeper..I fail to understand how everyone should be expected to achieve results above average! We should encourage our children to do the best that they can do . Is it any wonder that young people are badly behaved when their best is not valued. I taught in Primary School for more than forty years and my heart breaks to witness what we are doing to our young people

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I was thinking further on this subject and I was wondering why the whole teaching profession hasn’t spoken up? Every teacher I have spoken to shares the view that the new testing level is ridiculous. Is it possible that as a profession we silence ourselves because we may run the risk of losing our jobs, or our pay perforce related pay will be affected? Imagine though if collectively we came together, parents and teachers alike just how powerful that would be?

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  18. I’m curious to know why you’ve chosen 3rd May as a withdrawal date, rather than the following week which is when the children will sit the KS2 SATs tests.

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    • Please see here and the following statement we made on this:

      Why 3rd May? There are no tests then…

      The 3rd May was chosen specifically as a NON-TESTING DAY. If a child in Yr 2 is absent for a test day, they may end up taking the test separately from the rest of their class, thus causing more stress. We are hoping that the support of so many parents around the country will encourage teachers to feel that they can boycott the SATS as unions suggest they want to. We want the day to send a strong message to Nicky Morgan that parents DO care about education and want change. An end to the tests prior to 3rd May would mean that we don’t have to take our children out of school. We take our children’s education very seriously but feel that the current regime of constant and inappropriate testing is unfair and unnecessary for both teachers and pupils.

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  19. Oh how I wish that this letter had come out years ago. My youngster is not quite 15, but has already given up. The immense pressure put on him as he used to be a fast learner was the ‘key’ other children needed to call him a ‘geek’. Once he realised just why they called him a ‘geek’, he stopped learning. He no longer reads, nor do the school encourage. He no longer does in depth homework, but scrapes by on the bare minimum for fear of his grades going up and being called a ‘geek’ again.
    Yes Minister…..that is what the children of today are turning into. Not interesting learned and culture children, just plain simple ‘geeks’, and they mentally can’t take it.
    If you think that your stance is turning out better prepared children, then you are wrong, very wrong. All you are doing is turning out machines, that can’t think for themselves and have no idea of life about them. Life is knowing how to think straight. How to do certain everyday tasks. How to cook, clean, grow vegetables, provide. How to budget and not step onto the ‘Rob Peter to pay Paul’ ledge. How to converse with other people properly, and last but not least How to be a useful member of the community.
    These are children, and they need to be children in order to obtain the skills in all of the above.
    Let children be children. Stop this nonsense of children in infant schools wearing mortar boards and a gown on their heads so as to move up to Junior School. What complete and utter nonsense, and what a nightmare for a child who is not keen to dress up, but is told that ‘You must do this, as this is what is expected of you when you leave school in ten years time’. Oh gee, Ten years time is a lifetime away to those children, but it has succeeded very well in putting off many children from striving for a College or University and as for the cost of going to such places, that too has not only put off children in the early Senior years, but is putting the fear of God into the parents. The times that I have heard parents say; “I don’t want him/her
    to do well, I simply can’t afford the fees”.
    So please, step back now, and rethink your strategy, before we have not one but two or more generations children stressed to the point madness.

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