It’s the time of year when many children and parents are involved with the SATs tests.
These are the Standard Assessment Tests which are supposed to indicate a child’s educational progress at various stages of their school life; the end of years 2, 6 and 9.
But each year there has been an increase in concern over these tests, from both the parent and teacher communities, about the validity of the results, the time wasted and disruption to school life, and the more worrying impact it has on the children’s mental well being.
This is particularly intense as some children endure numerous practice papers and extra revision classes in preparation, thus increasing the pressure. And many parents feel that these tests, which were originally supposed to be implemented in a way that children would be unaware of them, disrupts their children’s education and even their family life.
This has driven campaigns by both parents and some teachers to take a stand against them. And as ministers remain oblivious to their concerns parents feel the need to take more serious action by a boycott.
Although parents have a duty by law to give their child a suitable education either through school or otherwise (‘otherwise’ is the clause which allows parents to home educate), there is no legal requirement that they sit SATs tests which gives parents the right to withdraw their child from them in class.
The organisation Let the Kids Be Kids is campaigning against the over testing of primary children and has drawn up a withdrawal letter for those parents who feel strongly enough to take part in the boycott. It has been downloaded thousands of times. Like many others, not only are parents challenging the validity of test results (which we’ve discussed before on this blog here), but they’re also raising concerns about an educational approach that’s geared to over testing and consequently the judgement, labelling and self fulfilling prophecies that impair the progress of those who don’t do so well. It is these issues that affect the children deeply impacting on mental well being.
Parents have been led to believe that SATs are a necessary part of the educational process and may be anxious about boycotting them. But in reality testing does not have to be part of learning. Home educated children, who generally are not tested as part of their educational approach, still go on to pass exams for which they may practice only when they need to, thus proving that kids can still achieve without them.
In fact famous educationalist Ken Robinson, talking to the TES recently, suggests home schooling as a way of parents getting away from test orientated education. (Read about home schooling here)
Obviously this isn’t the overall answer. But if you’re one of the parents who feel strongly about the testing regime practised in schools then it’s important to know you have a choice.
In the end, it is probably the collective power of parents who can implement change.