Let our Kids, be Kids!

testThousands of parents of six and seven year olds will be keeping their children at home on Tuesday May 3rd as a protest against the government national SATS exams.

The Green Party are very clear on this – we would abolish external SATS, and trust the professional judgement of teachers to assess their pupils in a much less pressurized environment. As Green Party national spokesperson for Education – and also a parent of 3 primary-aged boys and a working teacher – I have every sympathy with parents making the tough decision to withdraw their children from school.

Education at primary school level must be about a broad, child-centred curriculum with a wide variety of experiences and opportunities which will engender a love of learning and equip them for life. This over-emphasis on external testing is zapping the creativity out of our teaching and learning, thereby stifling the inquisitive nature of our children and limiting their future prospects.

The Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign has led the strike, saying that English children are ‘over-tested, over-worked and in a school system that places more importance of test results and league tables than children’s happiness and joy of learning’. It is a clear message to education secretary Nicky Morgan and her department that enough is enough, and we should not put our children through such a narrow and high-stake learning experience.

rosenI fully support families getting behind our main teaching unions who have repeatedly called for an end to the over testing in our schools. Even the head of the usually moderate NAHT (Headteachers’ union) Russell Hobby has criticised the tests: “Testing has a role to play in the assessment of children, but the poorly designed tests and last-minute changes we have seen this year do not add value to teaching.”

I back the campaign against over testing of our seven year olds. I know that those children out of school on May 3rd will have a happy and enriching experience away from mock tests and box ticking.

The government needs to listen.

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3 Responses to Let our Kids, be Kids!

  1. Toby French says:

    To take your points one-by-one:

    – Unfortunately teachers’ professional judgement is often biased, as Daisy Christodoulou explains here: https://thewingtoheaven.wordpress.com/2015/11/01/why-is-teacher-assessment-biased/. Testing is necessary, fair and incredibly effective at helping children remember. We are far more likely to remember that which we are tested on. The tests themselves may well have problems – all tests do – but would it really be better to not test at all, to have no idea how our children are doing in school and to prepare them for a world which simply does not exist?

    – Any pressurised environment comes as a result of schools chasing league table placements or teachers chasing PRP. Tests are not evil – they are, actually, the only reliable way we have in which to find out how our children are getting on at school. The Green Party should be focussing on PRP and league tables, not criticising the best tool we have to assess our children’s abilities. I test in every lesson, at least three or four times. Children love this because they get better each and every time – they want to show off their knowledge. Because of this they are much more prepared to take high-stakes exams, to perform better under stress and to want to demonstrate just what they know.

    – Why does testing negate a broad curriculum?

    – Why does testing stifle creativity? Knowing more, having that deeper cultural capital, enables greater creativity. Knowledge is empowering, not stifling. Furthermore, the understanding of sentence construction, for example, is vital for creativity with language: there will always be a few who have a knack for words, but knowing the rules means we can break them effectively.

    – Knowledge does engender a love of learning. Are you suggesting that knowing how to do things will make a child not want to do things? Really? This appears to be a rather lazy assumption, at best.

    – I’m not sure anyone in education thinks that children shouldn’t lead enjoyable, fulfilling lives, but the primary function of any school is to equip children with knowledge in order for them to be successful and happy in later life. This means that they must be able to, again, understand how to write and communicate effectively. Though some children will read widely at home and pick up the nuances of the English language, the majority need explicit instruction. This is not debatable, so are you suggesting that we fail the vast majority of children under our care?

    – You say that you fully support families getting behind teaching unions, which is admirable, but then go on to conflate two separate issues with your quote from Russell Hobby. The DfE has made some serious mistakes, but these do not devalue the role of testing. By conflating the two you are either accidentally misunderstand the arguments or are deliberately juxtaposing two very different problems in order to gain political points.

    – Finally, you state that “you know that those children out of school on May 3rd will have a happy and enriching experience away from mock tests and box ticking”, but how? Is it not more likely that many will sit at home whilst parents lose a day of wages? Perhaps there are those who can afford to take time off to look after their children, but this begs questions about the relative wealth of these parents: could a working class parent afford the time off and, if so, wouldn’t their children be, statistically speaking, more likely to benefit from testing? Middle class children tend to read more at home, have more opportunities for cultural enrichment and are often pushed more to succeed by already moderately successful – at least in terms of wealth – parents. Working class children lack these opportunities, so by supporting the strike you seem to be doing the working class a great disservice.

    I have always been attracted to the grass-roots discussions of Greens which, at heart, are based on rational argument and evidence. Thus, it does worry me that the Green Party, which I give my financial support to, should ignore facts in favour of idealistic, but inaccurate, assertions. Testing really is not the problem. Pick the right battles, Greens.


    • The Green Party is not against assessment or against testing. As a teacher, testing is an important part of the teaching and learning process. How do you know how effective the learning is without assessment of a sort? You don’t.

      Your comment does not take account of the specifics of these new Key Stage One assessments and within the context of previous assessments. This is dealt with elsewhere – follow the Let the Kids be Kids link to see more examples. These SATS assessments in 2016 for our 7 yr olds to sit do not inform and give chance to reflect on age appropriate learning. The focus on grammar at an age where pupils are beginning their chapter reading journey is contrary to academic research about how children learn.

      Primary school should be about immersing yourself in literature – prose, poetry and narrative – before you can then dissect its constructs.

      In addition – the government does not have to limit assessment to sit down test occasions. Teacher assessment it continuous throughout the year and not confined to one week in May.

      If you read the Green Party policies on education – again the link is in the article – you will see that assessment is dealt with clearly. The focus should not be on high stake national tests at this age, but on continual progress where the teacher can intervene on a regular basis to improve the learning experience.

      The policies really are in keeping with a rigorous education system within the context of curriculum time to explore and create.


      • Toby French says:

        You state that “we would abolish external SATS, and trust the professional judgement of teachers to assess their pupils”. You then further state that “policies really are in keeping with a rigorous education system.” However, the Party policy then states that you would use formative assessment as part of a broad range. Formative assessment creates many problems as it relies on real-time performance vs. a long-term ability to recall: it is a poor proxy for learning. In short, it is simply not rigorous when laid against external tests.

        As I stated, the current tests may have problems, but abolishing them altogether would be a disaster for fairness and equality. You state the “Green Party is not against assessment or against testing”, but by wanting to abolish the fairest means to testing we have the Party distances itself from rationality.

        Do the Greens want rigour and fairness or not? I notice that the policy also states that the GP would give focus to the thoroughly debunked myth of learning styles and seek to assess social, emotional and creative skills – how on earth could these be assessed, let alone assessed rigorously?

        Finally, do you really think that it is acceptable for parents to pull their children out of school because they don’t like a policy? This is so problematic! It gives credence to any child who has ever bunked off school, implies that education is a choice, does not help prepare children for a future where everything might just not be all rosy. This article from Jonathan Simons summarises the problems very well: http://nwk.ee/A1uNl.

        Again, bash league tables and PRP and adults who pressurise children. Bash the quality of a particular test, but don’t suggest that testing is dangerous (“we should not put our children through such a narrow and high-stake learning experience”) or that the Greens have a more rigorous approach because that is not true. If a child is upset then that is awful, but that is the fault of the adults, and for those adults to then support a withdrawal from school is irresponsible.


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