These are my thoughts on school tests, written as part of June’s #blogsync compilation. Read all the posts on tests in schools by following this link.
Tests, there’s a plethora of them these days. There are tests for Year 1 phonics, Key Stage 1 SATs tests, Key Stage 2 SATs tests, Key Stage 3 teacher assessment, Key Stage 4 teacher assessment as a predictor for GCSEs and GCSEs at the end of compulsory schooling. In SEN we have our own range of assessments with ASDAN, TI, TC and Entry Levels to name just a few. What is the purpose of it all?
The official party line is that tests are to check if children are on track to gain their GCSEs. If that is the case why are we testing 5 year olds and proposing to test 4 year olds. These children are as far away from their GCSEs as it is possible to be. So we test them at 5 years old and some will be found to be not quite up to scratch. Oh dear! Are they failures already at 5 years old? Some take longer to develop than others for a variety of reasons. We test again at 7. Oops! Still not there. Interventions are put in place and the child is beginning to feel a little stigma attached to their regular disappearance from lessons. You can see where I’m going with this I’m sure. There’s a high chance that we are creating a situation where children will begin to feel like failures simply because we are inadvertently treating them as failures.
Let me tell you a little story that totally warms my heart. My good twitter friend @nancygedge has a teenager with Down’s Syndrome. I’ve followed Sam’s progress through Nancy’s posts for quite a while now. I’ve shared in his trials and tribulations as he comes to grips with life and attempts to gain independence as is his right. I’ve been there with Nancy, so to speak, as he tackled things she never would have thought possible. One of those things is reading.
Last night Nancy posted a new blog. I was on my way out of the door for Friday night relaxation in the pub. I love Nancy’s posts so stopped to read it. I’m jolly glad I did. Guess what’s happened? Sam is reading! This almost took my breath away. Sam is 13 years old now and he’s got there! Wow Sam, I’m so happy for you! Returning to our tests for a moment. At 5 years old, Sam would be deemed a failure by the tests. At 7 years old, Sam would be deemed a failure by the tests, same again at 11 years old. As Sam is at a fantastic school they haven’t given up on him reading and at 13 years old he’s cracked it! Sam, to my mind is an incredibly high achiever. He has had to work very hard to master what most children take for granted. He has opened up a whole new world for himself and everyone should be very proud of this achievement. No one could ever describe him as a failure, no matter what story those tests tell.
One of the most important lessons in life we can pass on to the next generation is how to be a good human being. How to act towards each other. How to be kind, gentle, be a good friend and to have respect for others. There are no tests for that. It’s just something you pick up as you go through life. A good school will teach these things and value them alongside more formal education.
In my school our emphasis is not on relentless testing. We do what we have to do as required by the DfE but it isn’t our main focus. Our main focus is the care and comfort of the poorly children. Education is second. For the poorly children in my school the greatest test for some of them is just to live for another day. No formal education test will ever come close to the greatest test they face each day, survival.
Yet still the Government says we must test them.