Good quality education, not teaching for the test

WHEN MY daughter took her Key Stage One tests, SATs, she cried because the teacher could not help her. Now 16, she has experienced the full force of the government’s testing regime. By the time she reached secondary school she had lost interest in achieving in exams.

Nicky Downes, Coventry, year 6 teacher and parent of a six-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter

I don’t want my six-year-old son to have to suffer as well, which is why I have a personal interest in making sure that we get rid of these destructive tests for all children. Already his education has suffered because the Year 1 curriculum is heavily focussed on the needs of the tests, not the needs of the pupils.

At six years old, he needs a more play-based curriculum, not a diet of structured literacy and numeracy activities. When I look at the education in other European countries, children don’t even start school until they are seven.

Recent polls show that parents are becoming more concerned about the damage these tests are doing, especially when they read that Wales has already abandoned tests for seven-year-olds and are likely to end the tests for eleven and 14-year-olds. Parents everywhere should be demanding that SATs stop now. Give children back their rightful education.

As a Year 6 teacher, I see the wider effects of these tests on pupils and teachers. I feel guilty having to enforce a narrow curriculum on my pupils. Music, PE and the arts are squeezed out.

The pressure on teachers and consequently on pupils is unrelenting, more children are suffering mental health problems and behaviour problems are increasing as a direct result of these damaging tests. And the tests don’t tell you anything that you don’t already know as a teacher.

I am delighted that at last my union, the National Union of Teachers, has voted to ballot to boycott the SATs. But if this campaign is to be really successful it will need the support of parents and governors, as well as teachers.

I am convinced that teachers will get that support. The Conference on 28 June is just the start of this campaign. Up and down the country, local campaigns against SATs will be set up. I urge all parents to get involved and make sure that 2003 is the last year these tests are inflicted on our children.

Stop SATS meeting. 28 June, 11am-3.30pm. South Camden School, Charrington Street, London WC1. (Ten minutes from Euston, Kings Cross, and Socialism 2003.) Teachers, support workers, parents school students and governors particularly welcome.