Parents across the country kept their children out of school on Tuesday 3rd May in a protest against six and seven-year-olds having to sit SATs exams.
For the first time, we saw school children engaging in “strike action” after a petition started by the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign was signed by almost 40,000 people. The petition, directed at Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, calls on teachers to boycott SATs (Standard Assessment Tests) for children in Year 2, so that children can “enjoy learning for learning’s sake not for Ofsted results or league table figures“.
The group of parents have had “enough of endless testing, enough of teachers not being trusted, enough of an Ofsted-driven, dull, dry curriculum aimed solely at passing National Curriculum Tests”, and I completely support this view. Many schools have reached a point where their focus lies chiefly on league tables and reputation building, while the welfare of the pupils is being overlooked.
Parents all over the country are joining forces […] to show support for a SATs boycott and a return to teacher led assessments which value individuality and creativity in the school setting. (We Support Teachers to Boycott SATs petition)
While I appreciate the importance of monitoring the progress of our schools and teaching standards, forcing six-year-old children to undergo the stress of a week of exams seems extreme and totally unnecessary. This practice encourages teachers to focus their teaching on their pupils passing exams rather than providing a relaxed and enjoyable learning environment. Surely implementing regular informal assessments of students’ abilities would be a more reliable indicator of how their learning is progressing anyway, as this would remove the risk of them simply churning out model SATs test responses that have been drummed into them by panicked teachers.
The New Day paper reports that retired headteacher, Chris McGovern, believes that “SATs are an educational health check” which “for short term pain […] provide long term gain”. The fact that McGovern, chairman of the campaign for Real Education, supports tests that, in his own words, cause pain for young children is frankly disgusting. I have a young sister who will move into Year 2 this September and I cannot bear the thought of her being put under unnecessary pressure simply to bump up the league table position of her school.
The planned absence from school has been met with strong opposition from Nicky Morgan, who made a speech on Saturday warning parents that taking their children out of school even for one day would be “harmful to their education“. Yet has she stopped to consider how harmful piling on the pressure from a young age could be to the health and well-being of our children? I do not believe she has. We are already experiencing a mental health crisis in this country, particularly among the younger generation. Young people have enough stress to endure with GCSEs, A Levels without having to suffer such pressures at the tender age of six. Instead, we should be providing more effective teacher training and development that offers trainee teachers adequate support rather than throwing them in at the deep end and watching them drown. This, in turn, will ensure our young people are receiving the quality education they deserve, while promoting their mental well-being.