We can’t let #KidsStrike3rdMay go by without publishing a blog post on this superb intiative that’s put high stakes tests back on England’s national agenda.
“Sats are making learning nit-picky and joyless “: One parent’s open letter explaining why she is taking her children out of school today
“I’m stupid.” That’s what my seven-year old said to me with tears in his eyes.
Thanks for that, Nicky.
This one is not on me. This one’s on you. I’ve worked hard to build his self esteem. Stupid isn’t a word I’ve ever taught him. Ever used in relation to another person. Though when I think about current educational policymakers, I’m tempted to break that resolve.
This one is definitely thanks to you.
I’ve worked hard to show him that it’s OK to get things wrong, to not know things. That no one’s judging him. This isn’t what learning is about.
Thanks for correcting us on this.
You know the annoying thing? I haven’t ever had to try to convince him that learning is good or fun. I didn’t have to. Because, like all children, he is naturally curious.
Why are you trying to change that?
The past two years – year 1 and 2 – have chipped away at that. It’s not really the SATs, the tests themselves, it’s what they stand for. It’s the scorched earth policy that they create. It’s the focus on tedious technicality over inspiring ideas. It’s making learning as nit-picky and as joyless as possible. It’s removing the freedom to get something wrong at the age of seven and not feel that there’s something wrong with you.
So it seems that your ‘education’ and mine are clashing. What you want for my child, is not what I want for him. It’s not what I want for any kid. He is coping. But he shouldn’t have to.
So what can I do? Well for a start, I’m taking him out of school on the 3rd of May.
You see, this is the difference between you and me. I want them to like school. I want them to enjoy learning. And I want them to feel good about themselves while they do it.
Why don’t you want that for them too?
It is not my son who is stupid, Ms Morgan.
Kate Byrne (a pseudonym)
This is from Michael Rosen‘s column in the Guardian today:
I’ve been receiving letters recently from parents, teachers and school governors telling me about the stress that children in year 2 and year 6 are under. This is because of the Sats tests and I don’t get any sense from you or your colleagues that you realise how serious this is.
From a superb column by Zoe Williams, which we encourage everyone to read
in its entirety:
Do we want our children taught by humans or algorithms?
On Tuesday, parents enter the fray, with a school boycott organised by Let Our Kids Be Kids, to protest against “unnecessary testing and a curriculum that limits enjoyment and real understanding”. Some have been galvanised by the bizarre and unnecessary sight of their children in distress, others by solidarity with the teachers – who inconveniently continue to command a great deal of respect among people who actually meet with them – and others who can’t join in the boycott because of minor administrative details such as having to go to work, but have signed the petition. It is the beginning of a new activism – muscular, cooperative and agile because it has to be.
The framing of this debate is precisely wrong. No serious educationalist thinks that the way to drive up standards among children is to make tests more frequent and more exacting. Nor does anybody of any expertise really believe that teachers need to be incentivised by results. It is an incredibly tough, demanding, indifferently remunerated job, which nobody would do except as a vocation. It is not for the profession or the parents to explain what the tests are doing to the kids; it is for the education secretary to explain what these tests are for.
Whether all this is a prelude to privatisation or a PR stunt for a chaotic government doesn’t actually matter in the medium term: to put seven-year-olds under intolerable pressure for either of those ends would be equally abhorrent. In the long term, the mutation of schools into joyless exam factories won’t be halted by resistance alone, we also need to make a proper account of what education is for.
As Weingarten describes, “We have to help kids build relationships. We have to address their life skills, so they can negotiate the world. We have to help kids build resilience. We have to help kids learn how to problem-solve, how to think, how to engage. So tell me, how are any of these things tested on a standardised test?” That’s a test question for the tin-eared secretary of state herself.
Simon Jenkins said this in the Guardian:
Reforming schools? This is more like a doomed exercise in control freakery
There is only one purpose in the government’s chaotic regime for primary school testing. It is control. No wonder headteachers are up in arms. The latest proposals for testing seven-year-olds have been variously delayed, leaked, abandoned and accused of “lacking in clarity”. They will, the teachers’ leader Russell Hobby said this week, “no longer give parents reliable information on a child’s progress.”
That, of course, was never the point. The point was the obsession of the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, with reforming school government, and with the targets, measurements and league tables needed to justify it politically.
If Whitehall officials were to issue constant instructions on how to perform heart operations or cure cancer, there would be an outcry from doctors. Yet every politician thinks he or she can teach. The primary curriculum has become a farcical straitjacket of box-ticking questions and answers. It leaves no scope for professionalism, for personal chemistry between teacher and children. It requires a robot rather than a human being. “Just teach the test,” is the cry of the state – because we need to know what you are doing.
The best school is one rooted not in a corporate culture but in its community. It is one in which teachers are answerable to that community and its parents. The role of the state, as in the health and social care, should be in inspection and financial support. When the state decides it must run something itself, it will fail.
Primary tests in England too hard, say head teachers
“Increasingly, parents and teachers agree that high-stakes statutory tests like Sats can actually make it harder to find out what children are really learning and to improve their education.
“Our conversations with parents show that they want tests and assessments which help schools understand their children – on a regular basis with lower stakes – rather than what are fast becoming high-profile, high-pressure exams.”
The Guardian again:
Sats tests: parents and children boycott primary school exams
The biggest public event appears to have been in Brighton, where the children’s laureate, Chris Riddell, addressed hundreds of families at Preston Park in a demonstration organised by parents of children at several local primary schools.
Riddell ridiculed claims by the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, that taking part in the strike would harm children’s education, arguing instead that teaching them to question government policy was “an important lesson”.
“My feeling is there should be more trust in teachers and their ability to assess children at this age, rather than through testing,” he said. “The children are being put under undue stress and my argument is what is the value of what comes from this testing. I think it is questionable.”
At some events, parents protested not just at the tests, but against the government’s desire to convert all maintained state schools into academies by 2022.
We’ve said this before, and no doubt we’ll keep on saying it. A national campaign by parents is the only way to stop this government in its tracks – to put an end to unnecessary high stakes tests and an end to the policy of forcing all schools to become academies.
This government, like the coalition government that preceded it, is impervious to criticisms from teachers, headteachers, the NUT, the NAS/UWT, the ATL, as well as high profile critics like Michael Rosen, Zoe Williams and Simon Jenkins. They regard professors of education who say their policies are damaging as members of a ‘blob’.
Nicky Morgan, Michael Gove, and for that matter their New Labour predecessors, have been successful in turning back the clock to the 19th Century – an exam-dominated curriculum, payment by results and joyless filling of “empty vessels”, which is what children are assumed to be.
Someone has to stand up for the rights of children and for the rights of professionals to be part of a system that respects their professionalism.
Nick Gibb was given a grammar test live on air today by the BBC’s World At One presenter Martha Kearney. He failed it.
Well done @KidsBeKids3May – letthekidsbekids.wordpress.com
Today was just the beginning.