- The SAT tests of 2016 were introduced in a chaotic and rushed manner leaving little time for teachers to prepare adequately for a curriculum change. The test content was developmentally inappropriate for the age groups. Such was the shambles that the National Association of Headteachers are calling for no publication of 2016 results. (“Teachers and head teachers all agree that a thorough review of assessment is necessary”. Open Letter to Nicky Morgan 24.5.16) The primary testing system of 2016 was described by senior teaching professionals as a ‘car crash’. Parents will not watch their children be sent into another one in 2017. This government have shown that they are not capable of overseeing a smooth and appropriate test system for our primary school children and so we ask for return to teacher assessment in 2017.
- Conspiracy theories abound regarding the link between harder tests and an enforced academy agenda. Make the test harder, set the children up to fail and therefore schools doing badly can be forced to become academies. Privatisation is the government’s agenda here… not the well-being of our individual children. On April 23rd, Michael Rosen clearly articulated the beliefs of many educationalists and parents; “In forcing through their White Paper on turning every school into an academy; You create this test crazy regime that is only there, not for the basis of giving children useful knowledge, but in order to test teachers and schools. That’s what it’s there for. So our children take the pain, take the stress so that government monitors school in the way that they want; with these arbitrary yes no answers even where they’re not valid […the government] are measuring teachers and measuring schools with invalid testing, which impacts directly on our children.” (Michael Rosen – speaking at Parents Defending Education 23rd April 2016) Test scores link directly to school performance and teachers’ pay… to have a teacher’s pay linked to the performance of a young child is morally wrong.
- There is anecdotal and real evidence that high stakes testing places excessive pressure on children which has a direct, adverse result on their mental health. Critics will say that it is our fault as parents for putting pressure on our children… that children shouldn’t even realise they are taking tests if teachers get it right. We say that parents and teachers do an amazing job of shielding our children from pressure but with the best will in the world the children do feel it… pressure comes from Dfe, to heads, to schools and inevitably to our children. In any other profession where a policy was linked to mental health issues in children it would be scrapped pending investigation. It is abhorrent that the DfE are overseeing an education system which potentially damages children’s longer term health. Ministers should be mindful of their responsibilities towards the Unicef Human Rights of the Child which state “The best interests of the child MUST be a TOP priority in all things that affect children” (UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, Article 3) Critics will say that we are mollycoddling our children and that children in tears is a necessary part of growing up. We aren’t complaining about a few tears over a tricky spelling test here… there is talk of self-harm, of stress induced stomach pain, of nose bleeds, of vomiting during tests and doctor referrals for anxiety. This is a fundamental problem widely recognised by teachers, professionals and parents but ignored by the DfE who axed their own mental health tsar just days after she spoke about her “chronic concerns about the government’s approach”. (TES Natasha Devon 16.3.16)
- It is widely recognised that a Scandinavian model of education, with play based learning for children up until the age of 7 is much more beneficial to their well-being than the current approach. Why does this government look towards Singapore and China… when those very same countries are reporting mental health issues among their children? Critics will say that GCSE results need to improve. We say… make children ENJOY learning and maybe there’ll be a chance they’ll still have some drive and enthusiasm in the future. By the time children reach secondary schools they are turned off learning… but the time they reach university they are so focussed on passing tests that they no longer approach learning in a curious manner… this has to be re taught. We are producing a nation of robotic ‘test-passers’ who see no joy in learning for learning’s sake.
- We aren’t just talking about the tests themselves…they are the end point of what can be months’ worth of wasted time in schools preparing children for content way above their developmental levels… in order to teach children content for tests the school curriculum for primary schools is narrowed meaning less time spend on sport, outdoor learning, DT, art, music and science. This is disgraceful and in no way beneficial to a labour market of the future. If indeed this is what we are ‘teaching;’ our children for which is questionable in itself. Critics will say that parents do not wish for high standards… we do wish for high standards but not ONLY in numeracy and literacy. The wish to see their children as rounded, creative, individuals who have a love of learning. Parents involved in this campaign are not against testing per se but are aware that tests only show a snap shot of a child’s development. Teachers are trained to assess in numerous different ways throughout the year… to show developmentally appropriate progression over a year in a variety of subjects… not a snap shot in time in two areas of learning! For children to be labelled as passing or failing at the age of 10 or 11 is a huge step backwards for the education system. Children in year 6 will potentially have to RESIT these tests upon starting secondary school… what a way to start a secondary school career!