The damage caused by primary school testing to children’s education and wellbeing is now very clear. Among other effects, it has helped to create a crisis in children’s mental health.
As we know, large numbers of children are now suffering serious levels of anxiety because of test pressures, or for other reasons such as family poverty or family breakdown. The Child Law advice page reminds heads that:
Every school teacher owes a pupil a duty of care.
The school has to do what is reasonably practical to ensure they care for their pupils, as any reasonable parent would do.
It lists among possible danger signs:
- low mood
- panic attacks
- eating disorders
- some self-harming behaviour.
A recent survey shows an increase in mental health issues around the time of the SATs and children’s increasing fear of failure.
In April last year the House of Commons Select Committee on Primary Assessment reached very critical conclusions about SATs and other primary school tests. They declared that
“The high stakes system can negatively impact teaching and learning, leading to narrowing of the curriculum and ‘teaching to the test’, as well as affecting teacher and pupil wellbeing.”
The Government has ignored these conclusions. It set up a phoney survey with questions limited to peripheral issues. The new Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, has now blocked any reduction in testing. His statement that there would be no more changes means no hope of any reduction, and in fact he is continuing to implement three extra tests: multiplication tables, Baseline for four year olds, and what has been called ‘Baby PISA’ for children in nurseries.
This puts the ball back in the court of schools and parents to protect children’s interests and wellbeing. But what can they do?
Reclaiming Schools researchers have been asked by parents to look at official documents to find an answer. These are the implications for heads and for parents. Continue reading