Parents are taking to social media under the slogan “Let our kids be kids” in protest against the annual standard assessment tests (Sats) for children aged seven and eleven. They argue that the tests place unnecessary pressure on their children. The Department of Education offered the view that Sats were simply aimed at identifying children requiring extra help and were carried out over a full month as part of the normal curriculum, not in a traditional exam environment. However, teachers’ unions claim that the tests are too demanding and distract attention from other subjects such as music, art, and physical education.
Parents, guardians, and teachers argue that Sats are too demanding of children, many of whom are too young to deal with the pressure. For example, some five-year-old children face phonics screening tests. Parents and teachers alike have explained that Sats put good local community schools at risk as schools that don’t meet target levels face academisation. Low investment in curriculum materials and resources puts pressure on teachers, who are themselves coming under increasing pressure to meet ever-tougher targets.
Some teachers have argued that there is an excellent opportunity in primary schools to embed critical thinking skills and creativity, as well as practical skills such as cooking, gardening, programming, and science. However, Sats threaten to push creativity out and make independence and fun occasional events. Parents have passionately expressed their disagreement with the government’s approach to education.
The strike is a positive way for parents to express their disagreement with government policy, use fun learning activities as an alternative to the prescriptive, pressured approach fostered by Sats and the national curriculum. It is hoped that the strike will provide clear evidence to the Department of Education of widespread opposition from parents, guardians, and teachers.
4. The current strike has been initiated due to concerns over the inappropriate testing methods and a curriculum that is overly focused on tests. Schools are lacking the inclusion of arts, music, and physical education in their curriculum, which are vital for a child’s physical and mental well-being. Sats, in particular, condition children to embrace stress, competition, and striving beyond their limits as the norm. This conditioning has a direct impact on their mental and physical health, and it is not a desirable outcome.
I have discussed this issue with my kids, who may not fully comprehend it yet but are being exposed to the concept of protests and their significance through me.
5. Assessments are a crucial part of monitoring a child’s progress. Continuous assessments that consider the child’s overall progress are far more accurate than standardized tests that fail to convey any valuable insight. Even young children, who are still learning the language, are expected to answer pointless questions on grammar, a subject they are yet to comprehend fully. This rote memorization is not an effective learning strategy and can prove detrimental to their interest in learning.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the current Sats changes. Are you opting to boycott school, or do you believe the protests are futile? Please share your experiences and opinions with us in the comments below.