Are we returning to a 1950/60’s system of pass and fail?
I support the ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids’ campaign. As teachers, we want to foster a love of learning and not a fear of failure. We want all children to become lifelong learners.
Headteachers at the NAHT conference greeted Nicky Morgan with silence, followed by shouts of ‘’rubbish.’’ They are objecting to the current government’s programme of turning all schools into academies by 2020.
There was heated debate about the government’s onerous, more-demanding assessment regime for schools. Within the last few weeks, we have had the KS1 SPaG debacle and the findings of the Reception baseline comparability study, which stated that ‘we therefore conclude from this study that there is insufficient comparability between the three reception baseline assessments to enable them to be used in the accountability system concurrently.’ (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/reception-baseline-comparability-study-published).
Headteachers and teachers are losing confidence in the government. Many teachers I have talked to are distressed about the narrowing of the curriculum. They are concerned that children in their care are becoming stressed about the possibility of achieving (passing) or not achieving (failing) the expected standard. Parents are concerned. The ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids’ campaign has called for parents to keep their Year 2 children off school today (May 3). They are saying that their children are in a system that is over-tested, over-worked and that places more importance on test results and league tables than children’s happiness and joy of learning. They are campaigning for the end of SATs.
“I want no child to experience the early sense of failure that became part of my life.”
I failed the eleven plus exam. I still remember the walk home from school trying to work out in my head how I was going to tell my parents the awful news. I actually can’t remember my parents’ initial reaction, but I do remember that the conversation turned to me taking the ‘over-age’ exam the following year. I could still redeem myself.
I went to a secondary modern school and worked hard that first year. The shadow of the ‘over-age’ exam was hovering over me. The time came to take the exam, but I failed and then I gave up on education. I won’t bore you with the list of misdemeanours I committed, but academically, I went from being top of the A class to bottom. Emotionally, I remember feeling frustrated and angry with the situation in which I found myself. Life turned around for me with the introduction of the comprehensive system. I was given a third chance and took it. I gained the necessary qualifications, trained as a teacher and have worked in education all my life. I was incredibly fortunate. My life could have been so different.
I am concerned that educational decisions that are being made today are taking us back to the 1950/60s. I want no child to experience the early sense of failure that became part of my life. As educationalists, we must stand against educational policies that label children at such a young age as those who have ‘achieved’ or those who have ‘not achieved’ the expected standards.
The new SATs regime is forcing teachers to expect too much of young children. The curriculum has become too narrow and over prescriptive. Children do not want to spend their time in school and at home practising for the tests. This relentless assessment regime is in danger of impacting negatively on children’s emotional well-being.
Educationalists and parents need to say ‘enough is enough.’ I support the ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids’ campaign. We want all children to become lifelong learners. As teachers, we want to foster a love of learning and not a fear of failure.