Another SATs week – another story of mental anguish

Out campaigning against baseline

This week primary children aged 10 and 11 take their SATs and a report published on the same day showed a range of symptoms of anxiety raised significantly for those pupils. These included

  • smoking
  • not eating breakfast
  • skipping other meals
  • sleep disturbance
  • behaviour difficulties

It is quite shocking that children as young as ten admit to smoking as a result of pressure from SATs. These tests are of no importance to the child. No pupils has ever been asked for their SATs levels later in life and most secondary schools ignore them and re-test as they are so falsely inflated. When they were first introduced, people said that schools would ignore the pressure and teach as they always had and the SATs were merely one week of formality. The reality is that children are closely monitored from Year 1 for their levels, labelled, put into ability groups, given booster lessons, sat for large chunks of their primary education at a table with children of the same ‘ability’ knowing that triangle group is the bottom group and the will never reach the dizzy heights of circle group. Now this threatens to come down into the Early Years, where baseline tests will be reported to the government and data used to judge the performance of a school and a teacher. These tests are of no use to the teacher or parent in assessing children and moving them on.

This is why the following professional associations have opposed it:

The NUT, The Pre-school Learning Alliance, Association for Professional Development in Early Years (TACTYC), Save Childhood Movement (SCM), Early Childhood Forum, National Association for Primary Education (NAPE), Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), Early Childhood Action, National Day Nurseries Association , British Association for Early Childhood Education (Early Education) The ATL, The Charter for Primary Education plus many academics, psychologists and others.

We have been campaigning across the country. Parents are horrified that the testing bug will infect the good practice in Early Years. We advise people to hold public events and widen the support for this campaign.




NUT Conference votes to boycott baseline tests

Primary charter 4 too young

Teachers have voted to ballot for a boycott on tests for four-year-olds in England, calling them “disgraceful”.

Delegates at the National Union of Teachers’ conference backed a campaign to abolish the tests which are coming to many schools in September.

Teachers warn the literacy and numeracy tests would stress young pupils.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said it was “extraordinary” that teachers’ unions could not say “a single positive thing about England’s schools”.

These “baseline tests” in reading, writing and maths, to be carried out when pupils begin school, are intended to provide a starting point to measure progress against through primary school.

Ministers have argued that the assessments will help to make sure pupils leave primary school having made good progress in these basic skills.

The Labour party also supports the introduction of the baseline tests for reception pupils.

The Liberal Democrats support the tests and reject the way they have been characterised at the teachers’ union conference.

Too young to test

But Sara Tomlinson, calling for a boycott at the NUT annual conference in Harrogate, said: “We actually have the chance to stop these tests. We need to step up this campaign and act promptly as a trade union.

Making an emotional plea against the tests she said: “Four is too young to test,” adding that experts had denounced the tests.

“We have seen the reports on child mental health. What we are doing to children is absolutely disgraceful.”

She described the situation in her school where children were tested so frequently it was like “death by testing”.

The tests would be used by the Department for Education to track how much progress a child had made, she said, claiming that this would be used to decide whether the child’s teacher gets a pay rise or goes into a capability procedure.

Alex Kenny, a union executive member, said the NUT was not opposed in principle to assessing children, but it opposed these baseline tests and how they will be used.

The tests are being introduced formally in September 2016 but schools are being invited to start the testing early this September. Schools and teachers will be encouraged by the NUT to opt out of these.

‘Narrow skills’

The motion called for the union’s executive to take action, including “work towards a boycott of baseline assessments as the first step in undermining the basis of testing in primary schools”.

NUT deputy general secretary John Dixon said a ballot on a boycott would be a last resort, which would follow a campaign of persuasion.

Michael Davern, a teacher from Southwark, said members should “sink the ship before it sails” and urged parents to join in any boycott and opt out of testing.

Christine Blower, NUT general secretary said: “Government policy for primary education is on the wrong track. Unless challenged by teachers, it will give pupils a narrow and demotivating education, ill-fitting them for later life.

“Nowhere is this clearer than in the baseline assessment. Testing four and five year olds has nothing to do with supporting their learning, and everything to do with reinforcing a system which oppresses children and teachers alike with its narrow and rigidly-policed demands.”

The opposition to the tests was supported by the Pre-school Learning Alliance, with chief executive Neil Leitch saying the early years organisation “fully supports” the union’s decision.

“Early years policy must always, without exception, have the needs of the child at its centre – but with baseline tests, this is simply not the case,” said Mr Leitch, who warned that he remained “extremely concerned that the proposed tests focus so heavily on the narrow skills of language, literacy and numeracy”.