Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Primary School Testing

Last week peanut came home a little subdued, not her usual chatterbox self. I've learned that it's best in these moments to wait for the reason to come out. She's not one to be questioned and like her mum needs time to process before she shares.

A short while later she started to tell me tearfully that she'd had an exam at school and hadn't done well!

Just to explain here she is SIX! Yes six and she's crying to me that she got 5 questions wrong and didn't want to go into year 2 because all they do is work work work and hardly have time to play! It doesn't take much to trigger my brain to thoughts of the benefits of home schooling, the pressure placed on children who quite frankly should be making mud pies and not ticking boxes on multiple choice tests.


So trying not to let my cross was at her being made to feel bad I tried to find out what had happened. Not much sense was being made and so i called the school to see if her teacher happened to be around for a chat. Luckily she was happy to explain. There's been no official test it was just a little test style (not done in exam conditions) paper, to see how everyone was getting on. Her teacher was keen to reassure Peanut that the test was nothing really and that she knew exactly how brilliant peanut was without even marking the test. She couldn't understand how Peanut thought she'd gotten 5 wrong as they hadn't marked the work.

After explaining all of this to Peanut we got on with our evening but it really made me think, you see this week they've also done 'official' phonics testing in schools across the country, so your year 1 child will have spent some one to one time with their teacher and asked to read some words and pick out some nonsense words. Sounds fairly unobtrusive and fair enough right? Well not really..


Not wanting to write this as just my biased view that testing kids under the age of 10 is ludicrous, unfair and doesn't give any indication of ability, I took to facebook to ask opinion of my many teacher pals


I thought I would get some mixed opinion and some positive comments about how there's really not any appropriate way to test children and this is the best option, I thought there'd be mention of children needing to be assessed in a standardised manner, so I was surprised (and pleased) to find lots of responses all with one theme. Testing children this young is futile it undermines the teachers ability to teach and monitor the educational needs of thier pupils.


The phonics test for example asks children to pick out nonsense word but as one of my teacher friends pointed out..


'The nonsense words are just ridiculous, when in life do you ever have to read them!! The brighter children use their intelligence to try and make them real words (which is what you would hope when they are reading) so they don't pass either! '


I've been informed that phonics testing is being phased out next year which makes me quite happy but it still leaves the issue of SATs in year 2 and the children who've already been 'judged' in the phonics test.

Our teachers quite frankly should be spending thier time tailoring classes to meet the needs of children not tailoring them to make sure children meet the needs of a written test.

I can tell you my girl got top marks in her 'unofficial' test, and apparently got all of her phonics test right (although that's her version of events I've not yet had the teachers) but I can also tell you that it wouldnt make any difference at all to me (obviously). I know her strengths lie in reading, creating and kindness. She's imaginative and smart, kind and logical she always wants to help others and I don't care at all about her 'official' results and neither should she. I've told her not to worry about year 2 and that she doesn't need to take the SATs if she still is worried this time next year. I know the teachers won't make a big deal about it and try ensure children aren't really aware that the SATs are a big deal but I know that some children, like my girl, will and do worry and stress and honestly I'm just not prepared to put her through that for no reason other than allowing our government to label schools based on a test that judges children on one day's performance!

I believe firmly we are pushing our teachers too much and more so, we are pressuring our children to read too soon and fit testing criteria that doesn't give any picture of their abilities at all. We should let our teachers concentrate on our kids, assessing them as they go and not rely upon outdated foolish assesments designed to judge a system that's under too much pressure already.


I'd love to hear your opinions on testing in primary school....


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