Dear Teachers… please vote to boycott!

Dear Teachers,

Every year around this time we hear that your profession is desperate to get rid of high stakes tests like SATs.  Every year we are reminded that these tests are NOT good for our children, that they serve them no purpose and that they are pointless and damaging to children, to teachers and to schools.  Every year we read stories which fill us with sorrow and anger that this system has not yet been fixed.

Every year parents contact us with stories centred around mental health – children self harming or being diagnosed with school related anxiety. Every year there are accounts of children being asked to sit tests with sick buckets at their side or whilst infected with chicken pox or even in a hospital bed. This year the most heartbreaking headline must be of a family told to bring their 11 year old into school to sit SAT tests in isolation following a funeral of a close family member. This has to stop.

Every year the evidence mounts that high stakes tests in primary are causing untold damage to our children, to our schools and also to the reputation and respect of the teaching profession itself.  Every year more teachers and children are damaged by this system. Every year caring professionals say ‘enough is enough’.

We know that these tests are forced upon you. We know you try your very best to minimise the damage they cause and we thank you for that. But we need you to stop hoping Nick Gibb is going to suddenly wake up to the damage being done… while this government is in charge SATs are here to stay. This government is unwilling to accept the possibility of change – it is time to trust the teachers, the heads and the unions to work together with Ofsted, the government and parents to create a better system. This is our chance to change things.

The National Education Union is the biggest education union in Europe. On June 4th eligible members will be asked to vote as to whether to boycott primary school high stakes tests in 2020. Trade Unions laws in our country mean that the vote will not be valid without a 50% turnout. Of that 50% turnout, 80% must vote to boycott. Those are big numbers. Every vote counts. Your vote counts.

We urge you please to vote. We urge you to vote to boycott. We urge you to be part of the solution not the problem. We urge you to be part of this education reform.

Reform could mean Ofsted having to widen its accountability measures, to meet Amanda Spielman’s promise of less focus on data – relieving pressure on schools and children, allowing teachers, government and experts in children’s development to work together to establish a better, more successful and joyful way forward:, improving outcomes for children with real world skills, knowledge and resilience.

Reform could mean secondary schools returning to setting realistic targets for their students’ GCSEs, relieving the pressure placed on secondary students, teachers and schools by unrealistic Progress 8 expectations; relieving pressure on children up until the age of 16; hopefully meaning a reduction in the current dangerously high levels of mental health concerns amongst our young people.

Reform could mean that play based learning could return to the early years and Key Stage 1 – currently dominated by a test driven curriculum.

Parents want reform. Parents have led boycotts, removed their children from school during SATs weeks; they have taken part in a huge ‘Kids’ Strike’ day, campaigned through petitions and via MPs. This has done wonders to raise awareness of the damage SATs cause but it can’t fix the system.

Many parents are teachers; Many parents know teachers; Many parents talk to teachers. Our petition to say that parents support teachers to boycott the SATs currently has almost 55,000 signatures proving just that. In addition, our recent poll, following the decision to ballot for a boycott at conference, showed 96% of patents DO SUPPORT teachers to act and to act NOW.

We thank the brave headteachers who have risked their positions to stand against what they know is wrong for the children in their care, but there is little even the bravest heads can do if they stand alone.

This year teachers have the chance to act, as part of a powerful union and with support from parents; a chance to say enough really is enough. Teachers have the chance to bring back power to the teaching profession.

On behalf of parents across the country, please vote YES to boycotting high stakes tests in 2020. We stand with you. Together we CAN make change happen.

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SATs Boycott 2019

Parents around the country are fed up of waiting for action to be taken against SATs, despite the mounting evidence of the damage they cause to children and to schools, and so are taking matters into their own hands. Individuals and groups are boycotting SATs in 2019 – the map represents those who have let us know their intention.

The map is by no means representative of all boycott action – many parents would rather not identify themselves and will simply not send their children to school on SAT test days.

Year 6 SATs take place the week beginning 13th May, Year 2 SATs can take place at any time in May.

Parent Power. Year 2 SATs boycott 2019

An entire class of Year 2 parents are boycotting SATs. They say their teachers should be getting on with teaching, rather than putting 7-year-olds through punitive tests – which are being phased out anyway in 2022. Watch our film here…

If you are concerned about high stakes testing in your school please talk to your headteacher – the evidence against SATs in overwhelming and it’s no wonder parents are starting to take action like this.

The NEU are balloting to boycott SATs next year and we sincerely hope they do take action to safeguard children from the harm these tests cause, but this doesn’t help children this year and so we expect to see more parents across the country taking matter into their own hands.

Press Release – ENTIRE CLASS OF PARENTS TAKES CHILDREN OUT OF SATS

Press Release

ENTIRE CLASS OF PARENTS TAKES CHILDREN OUT OF SATS

An entire class of Year 2 parents is boycotting SATs. The fifteen parents from Bealings village school near Woodbridge in Suffolk say their teachers should be teaching – rather than teaching to the test. The Key Stage 1 tests are being phased out in 2022, so the parents are ahead of the game.

Parent Lavinia Musolino said:

“We understand that the headteacher has a legal obligation to submit the tests and to make sure the children are doing them, but as parents our opinion overrides that and, frankly, so it should.”

Fellow parent, Hetty Chance, said:

“The tests are going in 2022. Why should our children sit them now? My message to the government would be that we as parents want high standards. We want our children to have a broad, rich and enjoyable time at school and it is being spoilt by this constant testing.

I hope that other people will hear about what we are doing and start the conversation with their headteacher. I think when something is so wrong we need to stand up and say so.”

The head and governing body at Bealings primary school have respected the parents’ wishes for their children not to take part in the tests, which happen throughout May. Chair of governors, Rick Gillingham, said:

“As a school we are certainly not going to stand in the way of that and it fits in with our ethos that overtesting is not something we would go along with. The whole landscape around SATs has changed and is now under challenge.”

In 2017 the education select committee of MPs investigated SATs and reported that “the high stakes system can negatively impact teaching and learning, leading to narrowing of the curriculum and ‘teaching to the test’, as well as affecting teacher and pupil wellbeing.”

The skills minister, Anne Milton, said in an answer to a parliamentary question in 2018 that “children attending school are not legally required to sit the national key stage tests.” Heads, meanwhile, have a statutory duty to adminster them.

This year the national director of education at Ofsted, Sean Harford, told an all- party parliamentary group: “We don’t actually need SATs to inspect”.

Bealings school has had repeated “Outstanding” Ofsted verdicts and is five times oversubscribed. It is known for its focus on creative and collaborative learning and strong teacher assessment, with minimum preparation for tests.

The Bealings parents have participated in a film which will be shared on social media and will be uploaded to these websites on May 8th.

https://letthekidsbekids.wordpress.com/ http://www.rescueourschools.co.uk

Let Our Kids Be Kids and Rescue Our Schools said in a joint statement:

“We support the Bealings parents in acting in what they believe is the best interests of their children. The Department for Education continues to ignore the evidence that the system is broken and until headteachers come together to challenge the culture of high stakes testing, parents understandably feel they have to make a stand – not just for their own children but for children all over the country who are suffering.”

For media enquiries please contact Madeleine Holt on 07711 796262 or email info@rescueourschools.co.uk

Background information: Both Let Our Kids Be Kids and Rescue Our Schools were set up by parents in 2016 to campaign to make education a more positive experience. Let Our Kids Be Kids organised the first ever Kids’ Strike in 2016 in protest at the damaging effects of SATs. Rescue Our Schools campaigns for wholesale reform to state education, with constant updates on Facebook.

The Tylenol test…

We recently heard a story about Tylenol which anyone interested in the SATs debacle should be interested to note…

For those who aren’t aware of Tylenol, it is the American Calpol equivalent, selling little bottles of medicine for children’s fevers and colds.   In the 1980’s some bottles were tampered with and, horrifically, a number of children were deliberately poisoned as a result.  This wasn’t Tylenol’s fault.  They weren’t responsible for the crime… and yet they recalled all products and ceased to trade until they produced a new tamper free bottle and made 100% sure no such incident could happen again.  This is a company acting with ethics and putting child well-being before profits.

Here in England we have a problem with high stakes testing in Primary Schools.  There is widespread acknowledgement that SATs are damaging to children’s mental health.   In 2017 an Education Select Committee of MPs investigated SATs and reported that “the high stakes system can negatively impact teaching and learning, leading to narrowing of the curriculum and ‘teaching to the test’, as well as affecting teacher and pupil well-being.”

And yet here we are… 2 years later… and SATs are still in place in our Primary Schools.

The DfE is not passing the Tylenol test.

Child well-being must be put first, above all else.  Tylenol knew this in the 1980s, putting children ahead of profits and sales targets.  Yet our own education ministers don’t seem to know this in 2019, putting SATs data and PISA ratings ahead of children’s mental health on a national scale.

Headteachers have recently launched an  Assessment Charter  which we sincerely hope many schools feel able to sign up to, but is it enough?!

As part of the National Education Union, teachers are balloting to boycott tests in 2020 and we sincerely hope they do take action at last – but what about children this year?

It’s no wonder parents are starting to take matters into their own hands and take action themselves.  SATs are NOT compulsory for children and many parents are choosing to boycott the tests in protest of this failure from the DfE to listen to their concerns.

 

 

 

Dear Damian Hinds…

Dear Mr Hinds,

This may come as a shock but in many regards we absolutely agree with you in your recent statement about SATs. Yes, ‘exams and tests have their place in education and they always will’. True! Professional teachers use assessment to support their students’ learning all the time… however, let’s be honest, these SAT assessments aren’t really used for learning are they? They are used to judge schools and measure your success in the DfE, children do not benefit from these tests at all.

It is also true SATs ‘are not A Levels or GCSEs with results that count on an individual basis in the long term.’ But you are absolutely wrong to say that that children will not be judged on them in later life.. because it’s absolutely clear that they DO affect children’s GCSE targets because of Progress 8, often causing massive stress and anxiety.

We agree that ‘“you don’t carry your SATs results with you into a job interview” and that “no one will ask how you got on in your SATs when applying for university.” Most definitely… but Ofsted will ask each and every school how the children are performing against these government standards… and so the government are making them seem pretty important to each and every child.

We totally agree again (have to admit, this is getting worrying… ) that ‘no child should be going into these tests feeling nervous or stressed about how they will perform’ and that ‘they should never be a cause for upset or anxiety for children or parents.’ We couldn’t agree more with that one! The fact is though, because of a system designed by the DfE, this is the reality of the SAT tests… you can try to pass the blame to schools all you like but YOU are the designer of this system… the blame lies with you.

However, you are fundamentally wrong Mr Hinds when you say that the SATs’ “core purpose is to help ensure primary schools are teaching our children the key skills and knowledge in maths and English that they will need to go on to succeed at secondary school’ and this is where we feel we will have to part company…

Now is it? Is that really their core purpose? Because secondary schools don’t seem to feel that they provide those key skills at all. In fact, numerous surveys of teachers seem to show that really teachers (and parents) think the government designed National Curriculum tests are not fit for purpose.

So, if the teaching of key skills isn’t their core purpose what is? Is it actually to use our children as data to judge schools, both primary and secondary, and to provide a means of comparing them, through your divisive and condemnatory league tables (which in recent weeks have suffered an awful lot of criticism..) in order to prove your worth as government ministers? These league tables are widely recognised as causing a huge amount of stress for teachers and heads, undeniably linked to a national shortage of teaching professionals!

Perhaps feeding your league tables are actually their core purpose?

If one in five schools are asking children to take home past papers; if schools feel the need to put on stress-busting sessions and plan special activities due to SATs and children are too busy revising to play, then actually, we have to agree with you again: ‘there are some misapprehensions about the purpose of the SATs’.

Because you know what, we’re not sure that schools would be sending home test papers and planning special sessions if they didn’t feel they had to. If they didn’t feel that their school’s future and their teachers’ jobs were at stake. If they didn’t feel that terrifying fear of facing Ofsted ‘without the data’!!!!

So perhaps when you say that children need to ‘do their best’, you need to clarify the outcomes just a bit. We think there might be a few mixed messages there… Just a thought.

All the best.

Let Kids Be Kids, on behalf of 30,000 parents who support our campaign to find a better way to measure school success,

Ofsted Survey – Help Please!

Sometimes it can feel like you are trying to turn an oil tanker when you are fighting for change – the cogs in the machines of power can take an awfully long time to turn!  There are many oil tankers in the education system… all stuck in their seas of thick mud!  We have been trying to push in as many ways as we can think of to get back on track towards a system where children are treated as children, teachers are free to teach a joyous curriculum and high stakes tests are no longer the foundation of our school accountability system.

Ofsted are one of the biggest and most powerful tankers in the education sea.  And yet perhaps there is change on it’s way?!  Currently Ofsted are starting to question how schools are inspected…

Perhaps data from tests shouldn’t be the only tool used to measure schools by? Could child well-being be of equal importance in the success of a school?  (Who’d have thought?!)  Maybe a school’s overall approach to a broad and balanced curriculum could be more important than just how well they can cram children through SAT tests? (Again… who knew?!)

Ofsted are currently conducting a survey to answer these questions and we want to formulate our own response from parents.  It’s fantastic that these questions are being asked but we know that this oil tanker can’t move all by itself – it needs a MASSIVE push of parent, teacher and professional power to help it on it’s way.

PLEASE HELP US BY COMPLETING THIS TEN MINUTE OFSTED SURVEY 

We can’t do this without you!! Thank you!

Chalk up your opposition to tests!

Over the next couple of months parents, teachers, nursery leaders, child development experts and of course, children, are chalking up their opposition to high stakes testing in primary school!  It’s easy to get involved…

Grab some chalk and write the words #PlayNotTestsAt4 on a pavement near you – then post a pic on social media using #PlayNotTestsAt4 and linking to @morethanascore who are leading the campaign.

The more people who get involved in this creative protest the better – to show the government that we understand the importance of PLAY in schools and the nonsense of TESTING 4 YEAR OLDS!  We can’t believe that in 2019, when we know so much about child development and the growing young brain that we are having to defend children’s right to PLAY… yet this is the case as more and more academic style learning comes down the primary school curriculum and into Key Stage 1 and Reception.

It’s our firm belief that children under the age of 7 should be learning through PLAY most of the time – directed by adults yes to ensure safety and maximise learning but PLAY should be the focus of the child’s day at school to encourage an early love of school and a relaxed, individualised path towards more focused learning in the later stages of the curriculum.

Scandinavian countries use this approach, recognising that children are so widely different developmentally until they are 7 that it’s pointless and damaging to try and ‘standardise’ their learning before this age… this introduction of tests for 4 year old in English and maths, in their first few weeks at school, in demonstrative of this government’s complete lack of understanding of child development and cognitive learning  in childhood.

#PlayNotTestsAt4 is such a simple message but an absolutely vital one to protect PLAY for our children!

For more details and ways to get involved please visit More Than A Score!

 

Why I keep fighting against SATs…

So why have I spent three years of my life telling everyone that SATs need to go; that the education system needs to change; that it IS important? (Often to the point that I can see people looking for escape routes in the school yard..) Why do I feel it’s important that we do ‘rock the boat’?

I have to admit, at times I do get a bit worried, reading comments that tell me that we are ‘snowflake parents’ and that a good exam never hurt anyone! Maybe this is my agenda, not my child’s? To be fair, my child is not usually fazed by much and is very clear that SATs are really nothing to worry about. Perhaps I should just let him get on with it..?

Worries about the teachers and the head also raise their heads… What if my child’s absence from SATs means a dip in results; the dreaded OFSTED, academisation….  Would that all be my fault?

It’s not easy to continue to fighting a fight that constantly changes, that makes you doubt where you are going, that seems never-ending. But I don’t want to give up. Why..?

Because of the changes we have seen happen. And the more still to come.

Since starting this campaign we have heard from thousands of parents and teachers and heads who hate what they see happening around them every day, who know that there is better out there.  It began largely with the parents and the awful stories of children whose love of learning had been destroyed by the constant pressure of cramming for a meaningless exam. In some cases, whose children had been destroyed by that exam.

But then the stories came from the teachers too – also fighting, also feeling destroyed by a job that demanded so much from them and left them feeling defeated.

This isn’t a fight against schools or teachers, this is fight against a system that could be so much better than it is – for everyone involved. We are all on the same side – the side of the children. And that’s the key point: we are on the same side – or should be. Who does this education system exist for, if not our children? To help them to develop a lifelong love of learning and to teach them to aspire, to dream, to want to achieve.

But it doesn’t seem to me what education is about any more. Education seems to be about measuring and comparing, jumping through hoops and forcing small, not yet grown children through hoops that don’t fit them (and often never will) and when the teachers don’t do that well enough then the system punishes everyone – including them.

This isn’t a real education and it definitely isn’t the best we can achieve. It is a system built on fear.

I understand how hard it is to fight back, but if we don’t then nothing will change. I understand how hard it is to speak to a child’s head, fearful of upsetting the status quo and having to deal with potential repercussions, to stand up to a head as a teacher, or as a head stand up to the DfE.

But if we don’t, what have we got? And who is to blame?

We know we want better. We know there is better. The fact that there are so many of us fighting together shows that there is strength there to make a change. Things start small – but they don’t have to stay that way.

I want my child to love school and have an education that everyone involved feels is the best it can possibly be.  A REAL education that opens eyes; that doesn’t shut down minds.

I am NOT against assessment  – it is vital part of teaching and learning – but want teachers to be trusted to assess appropriately. To be trusted. To be allowed to do what they trained to do. To teach and inspire.  I want my child’s teacher to love what they do and in turn my child to love learning.

When I ask who do SATs benefit? And How? I can’t find an answer. And if there’s not a good answer to that, then it’s a question that needs asking again and again.

For SATs don’t seem to benefit the children; stress, lack of a rounded curriculum, being told they have ‘failed’ – not very positive outcomes. If they do well, the children then face often ridiculously high target grades in secondary schools which again often make them feel like failures.

SATs definitely don’t seem to benefit the teachers; stress, overwork, retention crisis and constant pressure to achieve grades that are out of reach in many cases. The demoralising feeling that you are not teaching the way you wanted to, that this is not the job you loved.

So who do SATs benefit?

Both primary and secondary suffer – in terms of pressure to achieve results in Year 6 at primary and then that same pressure transferred to secondary by SATs results achieved through cramming. The threat of OFSTED knocking at the door..

Everyone seems to be pitted against each other  – all the levels of education fighting separate battles and failing. It is a failing system and we have let it come to this. But we CAN change it. We have to change it. And we have to change it together. I understand that fear of being the only one – and the potentially devastating consequences. But surely none of us should be the ‘only one’ any more? So many parents think this system is wrong. So many teachers think it’s wrong. So many heads.

So this is a call to arms! We don’t have to be alone – if we do it together. That is the only way.

This is not a campaign against schools – I love my child’s school – not teachers – I know how hard they work and how tirelessly they slave to ensure that even within a broken system our children receive the best education possible. It is a campaign about a broken system and a campaign to change things. It is a campaign built on hope and on working together and a campaign about not giving in. I just hope it doesn’t last another three years…

SATs – do you pass the test?

Without getting too deep on you, let’s face it, whatever your spiritual leaning, we are all here to make the world a better place and be the best people we can possibly be.  Life throws up all manner of tests for us to face – some harder than others, some which deeply challenge us, others that help us to grow.  The biggest test of all is to do the right thing when it’s also the hardest thing.

Sure, it’s easier to pay 5p for yet another plastic bag but the right thing to do is bring your bag for life right?   It’s easier to just chuck everything in the wheelie bin but the right thing to do is wash, squash and recycle right?   It’s easier to think everyone else will solve the world problems than take action ourselves.  It’s easier to follow orders that to challenge authority.

Right now the education accountability system is a mess. Kids are suffering as a result and teachers are despairing at how they can protect children from a flawed standardised testing system.  Are you doing the easy thing or the hard thing to solve that problem?

If you are a primary headteacher we understand you have difficult ethical choices to make.  The hard thing right now is to say no to Baseline pilots taking place in your school – testing 4 year olds is nonsense and everyone knows it… the data will be unreliable and feed a system which is deeply flawed.  Every year you face the moral issues regarding SATs in both Year 2 and in Year 6 – the easy thing is to continue to feed the data machine, the hard thing is to work with other heads to try and fight the broken system that does so much harm.

If you are a parent watching your child prepare for SATs the hard thing right now is to ask difficult questions and challenge your school, your LEA, your MP – the right thing is to be part of the change you want to see by asking those difficult questions and challenging the system you know is failing your child.  The easy thing is to hope someone else will fight on your child’s behalf – as parents we are advocates for our children, we can not take the easy route.

If you are a secondary headteacher and can see how Progress 8 is damaged by over-inflated primary SAT scores, setting your children and your teachers up for failure, the hard thing right now is to work with primary colleagues towards a better solution. The right thing is to fight against SATs to protect yet more children entering a damaged system.

The easy thing is to think this is someone else’s problem, to maintain the status quo and allow this mess to continue.  The hard thing is the right thing, the thing that helps us sleep at night knowing we are part of the solution and not the problem.  If we all try to do the right thing, we can sort this mess out together. Ask yourself… are you passing the test?