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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 February, 2003, 12:58 GMT
Negative response to school tests
We asked for your thoughts on school tests. Overwhelmingly, you do not like them. Here is a selection from the dozens of responses.

My six year old is already crying himself to sleep at night worrying about his SATs - and we have not mentioned it to him once, other than to say we don't care how he does in them. This is a meaningless test that is in danger of seriously skewing his educational priorities.

Tests for six year olds (which is how old he will be when he takes them) should be abolished.
Mark Adams

My son started talking about suicide when told that his handwriting could lead to a bad result in his SATs test. He was 7 at the time.

My daughter was advised to start revising for the SATs she took when she was 11, four months before they took place.

Schools need good SATs scores so they spend ages on revision and practice sessions - it isn't learning any more, it's a series of rehearsals. No wonder children misbehave - where's the joy in learning?

I am absolutely sickened by the pressure put upon 11 year olds over these exams, my son is giving up on education and his work is suffering all round. His peers who have very pushy parents are constantly comparing their performance in practice test papers finding out their results and spending their playtime going over and over it all. My son's results were thrown back at him and he was called dumbo!!

This is not normal for children of this age and something should be done about it now before many children of this generation shut down mentally towards learning and just give up. They are too young for such pressure, it makes my blood boil!!!!
Tracey Evans

My Year 6 child brought a letter home from school saying that the local 'mixed ability' schools used the SAT results to stream their intake from Year 7. Because of this, all the homework since January has focused around trial SAT papers, this in turn has lead to my child becoming stressed, and losing interest in any school activities.

If senior schools are using the SAT results to stream their intake, then the SATs have become a leaving exam/entrance exam - and are being used as selection tests! My KS3 child is also becoming stressed and now sees the next few years (well, 5 to be precise) as one long series of tests.

What has the system come to? Maybe I should risk a 'truancy' fine and take them all on a long, frivolous holiday for 4 weeks through May - they would definitely get more out of that, than learning how to sit more tests!
M Smith

My concern is that pupils will be pushed too hard in order to secure the results which will gain the school a desirable place in the league tables. My son took his Year 2 SATs last year and the build up to them was torturous for him. He literally counted down the days until the time came for him to sit his test. Despite my reassurances that he only had to try his best he seemed to feel the pressure terribly.

I was glad when the fuss had died down and he could go back to school without the SATs hanging over him. I dread the Year 6 tests.
Ms Catherine Briscoe

I do find tests stressful myself. However, I think that they should not be abolished since they are a measure of a child's progression. Without tests, children would have no motive to study as hard as they would if tests were retained.

To make conditions better for children in terms of stress, I think that teachers should not put too much pressure on students. For the higher years, I think that coursework should not be given when people are trying to revise for exams. That is the main problem for me and many others.

In short, I hope tests are not abolished but the teachers should teach in such a way that other work such as coursework does not collide with exam revision.

We secondary school teachers know that SATs are misleading. Too many children coming to us from KS2 as levels 4/5 haven't basic literacy skills. They have been drilled into passing tests but they have been cheated of the broader, enquiry based education to which they are entitled. We also know which primary schools focus on tests to give them a leg up in the league tables. The whole system is intellectually bankrupt
B Anderson

I agree with the authors, as an experienced teacher of SAT level pupils, teachers have no choice but to go against their fundamental held beliefs about educating children and teach to tests. To do otherwise is committing suicide in the league tables and leave yourself open to yet more criticism by OFSTED.

Some may argue that good teachers would find innovative, stimulating ways to tackle the knowledge required for the tests and I agree with you, if their precious time was not already taken up with vast amounts of paper work, yes they could, but most teachers are over worked and have to compromise.

As a Year 9 English teacher and KS3 co-ordinator for SATS, I totally disagree with the SATs. No teacher is against assessment - we use many assessment methods continually - but this type of testing is narrowing the curriculum, leaving little room for the development of ideas and discrimination in reading.

In my view, SATS are taking the pleasure out of learning for many students and pressurising teachers to 'teach to the test' - rather than teaching for meaning, understanding, critical thinking and pleasure.
Moira Nolan

During my school years, I often found the pressure of tests unbearable. Examinations have become more and more stressful and, even worse, a constriction to the ideal of learning. The student is expected to know irrelevant facts, as opposed to the broad context of the material being studied.

I am now studying at Cambridge University - I am enjoying the opportunity for in-depth learning and the all-encompassing perspective of knowledge - something which was not provided at my school. Do schools want to become exam result factories, or institutions which create well-rounded human beings? This problem must be addressed to reduce the number of pupils who suffer from forms of neurosis and depression due to this country's myopic approach to education.
Adam Southall

I am a parent of three children, and a secondary school teacher. I know firsthand that fear of poor results in league tables is driving many primary schools to abandon a broad curriculum to focus exclusively on SATs tests. Government pressure on schools to be competitive and its obsession with testing is destroying the ethos of education: education is becoming merely a stressful grind for many children; evenings are consumed by homework assignments; children may well end up burnt-out by their mid-teens if there's not a change of direction. I wholeheartedly support a parental boycott.
Chris Hopton

As an ex-junior school teacher, I advise every parent to remove their child from the tests using up the ten days that they are allowed per annum to miss school. Take your children on holiday instead!

The Government is currently pressing schools to resist children going on holiday during school terms. If they reduced state testing to a reasonable level this would add back much more useful teaching time alone, let alone the disruption and expenditure caused by revision work.
Jerry Kent

I am an English teacher in the secondary sector and have always been opposed to SATs.

What many parents perhaps do not realise is that the Year 9 SATs for 2003 have been changed quite drastically. Final details about the proposed changes were only on the QCA website in November. We have one set of sample papers from QCA and any other ones available are commercially produced (and will have to be bought by schools - some people are making a lot of money through this!)

I have looked in detail at the sample reading paper and the mark scheme for it.

I could go on at length - suffice to say I think if more parents, governing bodies and head teachers were aware of the shambles of the proposed changes a cry of 'no more, boycott now' will go up.

As teachers we are supposed to try and create confident speakers, readers and writers who will be able to use English as a tool in their work, as well as in a social and leisure context. SATs do not contribute to this, in fact it hinders a broad and balanced, interesting and motivating curriculum.
Morlette Lindsay

SATs is a must as it allows me to find out which school is doing well and how well my children are doing in their school. Children are growing in a society where competition is the key word and in my opinion SATs is one way of showing children how to compete. Does any parent know how hard is teacher's job and why most of the schools end up with supply teachers?
Mrs Chippy Soman

My daughter was ill for a week after she took her SATs tests aged 7 years. She was at an under achieving school and because they thought that she was capable of achieving level 3 they pushed very hard. Her teacher was stressed and under pressure to produce results and was bound to pass it onto the children.

My daughter is now home educated.
L Dale

We have removed our children from school ( boys 4,6 and 10 ) and now educate them at home. While the SATs are not the only reason, they were a very important one. So long as status and funding for the school are based on the results of SATs then there is really no other choice for teachers but to ensure that their pupils score as highly as possible - and so have to teach to the test.

Parents are equally to blame however. I lost count of the number of parents who came up to me and waxed lyrical about how well their son/daughter had done in their SATs. Few chose to share my cynicism, pleased that their offspring had successfully leapt through the hoop - and congratulatory to the teachers for their focus on achieving results.

Well done the Hampshire parents, is this the first glimmer of a reaction to the prescriptive and assessment obsessed nature of UK schools today?
Ian Petrie

As both a teacher and parent I concur with the sentiments expressed in the article concerning school exams. Can I also point out that there has a been a massive growth in home tutoring to cram for the exams mentioned- 7 year olds are now spending their Saturday at SATs preparation schools.

Though children suffer due to the proliferation of school exams the parents share their suffering. For every one stressed child their are two stressed adults; a vicious circle of school-induced stress is then enacted.

My own experience is that the parents' stress is worse than their children's.
Martin Judge

As a parent and a school governor I entirely agree that there are far too many "tests" and statistics. Education should be more about what is drawn out of young people than what is drummed into them.
Peter Millar

I'd like to thank the authors who signed their names to the very eloquent letter in the TES. As a parent and an English teacher, I should love to have time to explore with my children, both at home and at school, some of the wonderful books available to them. Instead, we are having to analyse single pages of great literature in huge detail - examining, for example how Mary Shelley's use of semi-colons, commas, and large number of clauses help to build tension in her account of Frankenstein's monster coming to life (an example from the QCA Sample Reading Paper for 14 year olds). How to turn pupils off reading!! How to turn enthusiastic teachers off teaching!! (Do authors really consider such details when they write?)

I loathe having to "cram" students for these tests as I can see no educational benefit in them. However, as long as my school is judged on the results of SATs tests, I feel obliged to continue "teaching to the tests".
P Richens

Yes, I know other schools that sell course books to support Year 9 SATs. Further, while I take the view that schools pursue the tests so hard solely to maintain their position in artificial league tables, there is an unstated blackmail in the situation in that children are 'setted' on the basis of the results and so parents are also forced to pressure their children.

I sat my Y9 SATs nearly two years ago, and couldn't agree more that they simply represent the bureaucratic exam culture evident in our education system. Our school told us to start revision 5 months in advance of the SATs, and the entire year was focussed on exam preparation.

They are worthless, pointless and affect very little. I gained nothing from my SATs, and simply suffered because of the unnecessary pressure and stress we were put under at an age where we shouldn't burden children.

As a teacher of Year 2 I would support wholeheartedly the abolition of testing for 7 year olds. Yes teachers do "teach to test" because test results are not just used to inform on children's progress but are also used unfairly to judge a teacher's competence. Unrealistic targets are set from on high and test results are expected to show improvement year after year irrespective of the ability of the cohort doing the test.

The teaching unions have failed teachers miserably where testing is concerned, an all-out boycott of Sat tests should have been in place years ago.
Brenda Sidlow

I have recently completed my Year 9 SATs, and I feel that they were a completely unnecessary hassle. We spent all of Year 9 preparing for them, and were stressed out too much over them. There should be different ways for the government to test students to assess how students are achieving rather than put them through that.



Complaints grow over school tests
21 Feb 03 |  Education
Too much testing - says exams chief
29 Nov 02 |  Education
Vote likely on school test boycott
16 Oct 02 |  Education
Head admits test cheating
23 Jan 03 |  Education

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