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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Should tests for seven-year-olds be scrapped?
Eight out of 10 teachers want tests for seven-year-olds to be scrapped, a new survey has revealed.
More than half of the those questioned in a poll for the Times Educational Supplement (TES) also wanted to see an end to national exams for 11-year-olds.
The government wants to see 85% of 11-year-olds in England reach the level expected for their age in maths and English by 2004. But 59% of teachers surveyed said the target for English would not be achieved and 54% thought schools would not meet it for maths.
In total, 80% of the teachers surveyed wanted national tests for seven-year-olds to be abolished, while just 15% were in favour.
What do you think? Should tests for seven- and 11-year-olds come to an end? How does your child respond to the current testing system?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I have loved teaching for 30 years. I have always assessed individual pupils and I can say with absolute certainty that schools rarely fail children - parents sometimes do and successive governments always fail them. The reason why 7 year old testing is unfair is because they do the tests half a term before they reach the end of key stage 1.Believe me when I tell you that there are parts of the Maths and English programmes which the children are expected to know in the tests which they cover in the last term after the tests are completed. Children blossom academically in the last part of the summer term!
The tests should be scrapped, England is now out of line with other parts of the UK where they recognise that the tests and the statistical nonsense that follows serves no useful purpose. Now that the Government has introduced citizenship into the curriculum, I suggest that children in Year 6 debate the issue and vote whether or not they want to be subjected to the tests. With any luck they will vote not to do them and the Government will find it harder to ignore them than the teachers who they routinely ignore.
Viewing the last few years of my son's school progress, I feel that there are too many tests. In his final year, in the autumn term they revised for mock exams, then took the mocks. In the next term they did their projects which is part of the final mark and in the final term revised for the exams and took them. I saw little evidence of actual teaching. My niece's have all gone to tutors to increase their marks in their SATs (age range nine to 14). I see no increase in their intelligence just an increase in marks for a short period. The eldest has since been put down into a lower class in two key subjects, as she couldn't keep up. Therefore I can only conclude that children of parents who can afford, or choose to have tutors push their children into classes and/or schools that they shouldn't be in, thereby forcing more intelligent children towards the no-hoper end of the spectrum.
Kids like tests - they make a change. That is, provided they're not made to revise
and told they have to meet a certain level - that's where the stress comes from.
At this age, the kids should not feel they're being assessed and they shouldn't be
asked to prepare.
Janine, London, UK
What are the tests for seven year olds designed to do exactly? If modern seven year olds are anything like I was at that age, they'll be far more interested in playing with Fuzzy Felt than in trying to prove their academic abilities.
Are we to drop standards because children play computer games instead of studying? The testing system is to get students up to standard. Why should this be argued about?
Well, I have to say they should scrap it. I am 11 and right now I am going through a hard time because my Common Entrance examination is on the 14 June. I have to be studying very hard. This is very stressful for me. I am anxious and nervous. I am even scared I wont pass to go to a secondary school. Every adult I know is using common entrance as an excuse. My mom keeps on troubling me." Have you done your homework?" "Have you studied?" No one would like to be in my shoes right now.
People in the UK get tested enough when they are 16+. What is the point making kids experience these pressures at seven? Why can't they be allowed to learn more instead of constantly being tested?
Of course the teachers want to see the tests scrapped. They are simply another way of pinpointing the under-achieving malingerers within their ranks, so of course their removal would be welcomed. Why not just do away with all tests and then employers can take pot luck from the Phone Book as to whom they hire when the great mass of uneducated pork that would ensue hits the workplace?
Testing, whether it be the SATs for 7 year olds, the 11+ which still exists in Kent and elsewhere or even GCSEs is unfair.
People have often said that a lot of pressure is put on all children to succeed in their school tests. In fact, pressure is only applied to those children who 'might' pass. Those who definitely will pass are allowed to get on with it and those who definitely will not are ignored. This is of course to the detriment of everyone, especially the 'definite fail' category. Those children who might pass with enough support are put under huge pressure as every one of them affects the school, the staff and even the pay rates for teachers.
However the most worrying part of testing is the evidence that has repeatedly shown that children will always live down to an assertion that they have failed. If children as young as seven are allowed to believe they are failures, what hope is there that they will try to succeed later in life?
The tests are badly designed. They do not have easier and harder options as do the GCSE papers. The English SATS do not test what the Literacy Hour teaches. Analogies to manufacturing quality control can not be made because children are not standard raw materials whose quality can be increased each year.
Jeff F, UK
It seems to me that the problem here is not the tests. The problem is that because teachers have to focus so much on achieving results for the league tables, children miss out on other important things they could be learning instead, such as geography, history, environment etc. Get rid of the early tests and give kids a chance to have a well balanced education.
These tests are a complete waste of time. I want my children to be educated during their time at school, not to be taught how to pass SATs tests. My youngest daughter sat her year 6 SATs last year and was told, by her headmaster, prior to the tests "...that these tests are among some of the most important tests that you will ever take and will affect you for the rest of your life..."! If these tests are really to determine the quality of teaching in schools then putting pressure like that on 11 year olds hardly seems to be the best way to measure standards.
I can't believe the number of people here who are having a go at teachers. Several close friends of mine are teachers, and many have pupils who perform to excellent standards in the tests. And yet, these people are leaving the profession, because they are being asked to work absurd hours, given little or no support, given impossible targets, and have their services and dedication taken for granted. Oh, and the fact that two years out of university, I'm already earning more than the salary most of them could expect to earn for the next 10-15 years might have something to do with the fact that every single one of them is changing careers.
I think they probably should be scrapped, unless they are specifically for the child's improvement at the moment all these tests are merely to improve the Governments figures.
You should see the system in Singapore which is supposed to be modelled after the British system. At 10, they take national tests which streams them into 3 categories: Good, not-so-good, and No-hope.
And at 12, they are stream again into Good, Can-Make-It, Its-The-End categories.
And at 16, they take their O levels which decides who's job-worthy and who's not.
At 18, they take A levels to decide who are the "Likely to be CEO" materials and those "Likely to be workers for their whole lives" materials.
If they can't pass the test, they need more instruction. How else can one determine this?
My son is 7 and will have his SAT soon. The test result is for the school and for parents in future to know how good/bad the school is, isn't that what's important? As for exam pressure and failure. By the time they sit the SAT they'll already have had many 'checks' on their performance spelling, maths etc. I don't think the SAT tests are going to make things any worse for them. Anyone is business knows the only way to be sure of continuous improvement is to be able to measure it, that is what SAT are about. Mike
There is too much of a focus on tests which can never show an accurate picture anyhow. Seven is too early an age to test pupils and determine their future. It should be used solely as a measure of the performance of schools.
2 of my 4 children passed right through the British education system without their dyslexia being detected. The third was diagnosed as being severely dyslexic in his last year at school, only as a result of private testing. This was far too late to help him. The youngest is still in her third year and I want her to have every test there is, if it will help early diagnosis of this problem. Personally I think teachers should be more results driven, like the rest of the UK population.
Edwin Mills Lee, Great Britain
I feel they should be scrapped as it doesn't do anything for the child. When I did little stupid tests in primary school it did nothing for me. Plus I can't even remember what marks or anything much about them at 11 and I am only 16. I think primary school should be for kids to not only learn to write and count and all the usual stuff but to have fun too. Doing tests is just going to get them worried or upset if they do bad when they could actually be anything they want.
I would say from experience it's not the exam that ever really bothered me. It was the actual hype we were fed from teachers to do well that affected me more. The competition between schools is the problem not the SATs.
Tests in general are valuable tools, but these tests are not. These tests are meant to be a test of how far the school and children have come. But what they do test, as do all exams, is how ell prepared these children are for the exam. An example of this confusion; the BBC runs a bite size revision course. The presenter says these tests are to see how well the school is teaching you (the watching child). Yet this revision offered outside the school will surely mask this. Tests are needed, but relying on an exam structure is not the answer. As for these comments like 'life is tough' etc., what are you people on. You have the opportunity to create the world that your children live in. So is it out of spite you make it an unhappy one? Yes, they do need to know that there are other people out there that will treat them unfairly, but to use that as justification for doing that yourself is quite simply stupid. Lots of bad things will happen to my kids. I will try to prepare them for this. But not by being the instigator of bad things myself.
To "Helen, UK": It is precisely because some 7 year olds cannot cope with 10 words that the standard of education needs to be improved! Are you really proposing that such a level of incompetence should become the norm?
My son is only 5 and very bright for his age. When he started school he was assessed for what level he came into the school at. When I saw the teacher to discuss his knowledge he was placed below average despite already being able to read and do simple number problems. His conversations skills are excellent. I believe that the school made his results lower so to boost the next ones to show how much better "their" teaching has increased his skills. Especially since when he started I received information about how children come into the school with a low standard of education and that the students all come out with normal or above average skills. Will this happen to my boy with the tests?
Perhaps all these people who say that education shouldn't be competitive should stop for a moment and ask themselves if these pupils at school today are likely to meet competition when they reach the real world - Of course they are. Schools should most definitely encourage competition in whatever form they can, including extensive testing, to prepare them for real life.
I am currently preparing a class for National Tests at 14. I will not be teaching them for the next two weeks. Is this a good use of my time and their education?
Yes please scrap these useless tests! All that is being tested is the ability of the teacher to cram facts into 7 year old heads. Notice that I said facts, not any reasoning skills, powers of deduction or even - dare I say it - understanding. At this age school should still be fun as there is time enough for hard learning later. Remember that in other European countries children do not start school until they are 6 or 7. I know what I am talking about too, having had 2 children educated in Germany and 2 children educated in the UK and being a primary school teacher myself.
The fundamental problem with SAT's remains their purpose and audience. Are they diagnostic and indicative tests to assist in more targeted teaching to benefit the individual and cohort, or are they measures of teacher and school performance. Beyond this question remains the audience. If schools have to publish results in league tables which are subsequently used as crude indicators of school success it seems to me that there remains a conflict of interest.
In a classic class-ridden society like the UK, it is a sign of progress that so many people want to do away with such preposterous tests.
Maybe its not the tests that need to be scrapped but the approach to these tests changed. Here in Australia the primary school children sit basic skills tests in years 3(aged 8&9) and 5 (aged 10& 11). There is no pressure on the children, it's a simple test in basic skills at numeracy and literacy. The whole idea of these tests is not just to test the child's ability but also to help the Education Department assess the correct levels and methods of teaching in all these areas and to adjust the system and ensure that the focus of teaching is directed at where the areas that need to be addressed.
It is not a bad thing to have tests although they should not be given for the sake of testing. My daughter is studying in the Chinese system and has tests four times a year and exams twice a year. The idea is to determine the progress the child is making. However, I think that a lot of parents view results as competition and the reason for the exams existence tends to get lost.
Stefan Castille, Belgium
Tests only encourage competition between individuals and schools. In Sweden they don't reveal test marks to students until they're in their teens. Education isn't about competing; it's about learning and understanding.
Things have definitely changed in the 10 or so years since I took my first SATs. All I recall of it is sitting down at a table with colourful paper and being told I should do some questions. I remember sorting some objects into "sets", that's about it. If the SATs were administered in that way now I think they could be a valuable tool in testing abilities. I remember my year six SATs and my year nine SATs much more clearly, due to the pressure that was put on us.
If schools had properly tested my son in his earliest years they might have picked up the fact that he is dyslexic. As it was it was necessary for us as parents to arrange for proper testing. Perhaps the manner of the tests for seven year olds could be adjusted to be less intrusive, however they should not be scrapped. As for the alledged stress for the child, life is like that.
National tests for 7 year olds must be stopped. There is nothing to prove at this age and the pressure on the children has more of a potential to turn them off of education for good rather than encourage them to look on education as an enjoyable lifetime experience.
Tests for 11 year olds should continue but probably with slightly lowered standards, taking in a wider number of subjects including basic geography and British history. Currently 11 year olds leave primary education with only enough knowledge to boost the school's ratings in the league table which does nothing to educate a child apart from within a far too narrow range of subjects.
Jamie Bessich, New York, US
Caron, England, comments that she approves of SATS since otherwise she "only" has her son's teacher's word that he is working to the correct standard. Can it be right that people are willing to subject tiny children to immense pressure because they are not willing to accept the judgement of professionals?
Nearly 30 years ago both my husband and I sat our 11+ knowing this exam would effect the rest of our education as it would determine our secondary school. Both of us did spend a lot of time preparing for the exam, however we never felt under pressure and were told by both our parents and teachers to do the best we could. Children are pressurized by their parents/teachers attitude and not the exam itself.
My son is just about to go through his SATs at age 7. His previous reactions to learning at school have always been very positive and relaxed. This week, for the first time, I have seen him get really upset because he is being asked to do sums which are quite frankly beyond him. I understand that a range of questions are needed to gauge children┐s ability, but it seems very unfair to me that a previously happy and secure child should now start to question his own abilities. I firmly believe that teachers should be accountable and that their abilities should be measurable as with the majority of other workforces. However, if this is the main aim of SATS, rather than testing the children, could this not be achieved by case studies, on the job assessment and continuing personal development programmes for teachers? If, on the other hand, the child's ability is the point in question, then surely there are other ways to assess this rather than testing which would be just as objective, if not more so as the pressure element would be removed. Ultimately, I am annoyed and angry with a system which does not put my child first!
Tania, Birmingham, England
I hope that you will follow the
Welsh Assembly and bring an end to
these tests. Children of seven
should not be under exam stress.
I have seen parents congratulating their
offspring on passing their SATS in local
papers. Seven is much too young to make them
take exams. Teachers are able to assess
children without having to give them written
tests to be done under exam conditions.
Why on earth are children being made to study and revise for these tests? They are not exams, they are baseline assessments designed to provide the basis for future value-added measures. If children are being extensively prepared for the SATs it is because the teachers have fundamentally misunderstood their purpose.
Scrap all tests up to GCSE level. Give teachers the power to identify failing kids and use the money saved from the abolition of tests to give these kids some proper help. Tests are just more pointless bureaucracy.
Jon Cooper, UK
Life is stressful enough when people are old enough to fend for themselves. It is so unfair to put a young child through stress. They should be able to enjoy life while they can.
For decades, children of perfectly adequate intelligence left school unable to even read or write.
What amazes me is that for the most part their teachers didn't even appear to notice.
These tests are to formally see what levels children have achieved, if they need further help and (this is the bit that teachers and their unions hate) if their teachers are doing their jobs properly.
The only people who need fear testing are incompetent teachers and I have little sympathy for them.
I am a governor of a primary school, and I have children of that age.
I support tests for seven-year-olds because it provides a valuable baseline. On the other hand, treating the SATs as some kind of exam is pointless and stupid. What good does it do spending months cramming for them? Teaching for the SATs doesn't help the child. The way some schools use them as a cynical marketing ploy is wholly unacceptable.
The fundamental weakness with SATs everywhere, at whatever age - is that they are open to abuse by unscrupulous schools which encourage hothousing, coerce children into having extra tuition to get into the next grade band and trumpet SATs above all other measures of performance. Sensible parents know better than to believe the hype, one hopes.
Ultimately there must be measures. When someone proposes a better measure, I'll be campaigning for it. For now SATs are the only game in town.
Colin Moore, Germany
Testing of this kind is being phased out in Wales and has been abolished in Northern Ireland. When is England going to catch up?
My six-year-old son is about to sit these tests. Whilst I understand teachers' concerns, without them, I as a parent, only have his teacher's word that he is working to the correct standard. So long as the tests are not treated as the final word on a child's ability then I see no problem with them.
Children are just not allowed to be children anymore. What on earth does an exam-style test mean to a seven-year old? They should be at play, not revising for tests or fearing that they may be a failure. As a nation we are putting far too much pressure on children to succeed academically that we risk producing a generation of young burn-outs.
To Alan Green who seems to
dismiss the concerns of the
professionals, i.e. teachers. If a
child fails at 7 is he willing to also
agree that this has as much if not
more to do with the parents than
the teachers. Teachers only have
so much time with children and
a lot of time is spent on pointless
bureaucracy. In many cases teachers
fail to get the support of parents and
even on Parent's evenings the
number of parents who fail to
turn up is quite high. A child's
education is a combination
of the child, the teacher AND
parents, therefore if the child
does not succeed at 7 parents
have to take their share of the blame.
By the way I am not a teacher.
Alan Green, Germany
David Atkin, UK
The SATs are a complete nonsense. All it achieves is to put teachers under more and more pressure to reach targets laid down by faceless bureaucrats, which in turn causes stress to the children and their parents. To test pupils at various stages in their educational development is beneficial, but only to ensure that the pupil is progressing at a rate based on their ability.
Perhaps parents should be tested and, as a result of the parent tests, the children may or may not require testing.
Oliver Richardson, UK
A student in test conditions may shine at the age of seven but fail miserably by the time they sit their GCSE examinations simply because of adolescence. I think the early stages of testing should be abolished.
I was fortunate enough to come through the education system before tests for seven- and 11-year-olds were introduced, but I spent a year being prepared for SATs at age 14, tests that we never actually took but instead of being taught English, maths or science, I was taught exactly what I needed to pass some tests. As such I wasn't given the basic grounding in these subjects that I needed for my GCSEs. Testing children at such a young age piles pressure on them, their parents and their teachers. Rather than doing the best for the children teachers feel pushed to deliver good results, concentrating on borderline cases rather than giving equal attention to all. The competitiveness among parents at school gates can only be detrimental to their children.
I went through tests at 11 years old. I can confidently say that I felt neither stressed nor under excess pressure.
Such tests are important to determine a child's progress, and the quality of the teaching he/she has received.
Parents should be encouraging their child's development, not dismissing it as too much pressure for them (Jon, UK). Your child's development should be of the utmost importance.
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