Childhood should be free from test stress

13 Dec

I read earlier this week that the chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, and his sidekick (or is it the other way round – who is whose puppet?) Michael Gove (my views on him are well-recorded within this blog already, so here suffice to say that it’s good his name virtually rhymes with ‘loathe’) believe we as a country are lagging behind in education because we are not testing our children regularly enough to benchmark their progress appropriately.

I can’t see how more testing is going to enhance our children’s education – and I’m not just saying that as the mother of a child who ‘failed’ (give me a break) last year’s insane phonics assessment cos he kept trying to turn the fake words into real ones.

What will enhance our children’s education is replacing the funds deviated from state schools to set up ‘other’ establishments, giving our fundamentally superb state education system a chance to thrive again. What will also enhance our children’s education is the removal of the rigid, unimaginative and punative curriculum which means teachers struggle to inject variety into required set pieces and narrows down the chance for children to try new things and expand their educational and practical horizons.

But most of all, surely what will enhance our children’s education is not forcing tiny people to sit down and take tests. However well disguised they are, children know a test. Tests, marks, and ‘pass or fail’, they all mean something, even to a four year old, and many of the implications come with negative connotations. No child should be told they’ve ‘failed’. And don’t come at me with that alternative wording, ‘not met the required standard’, the ‘it’s not you it’s me’ of educational assessment. Children are under no illusions about what that means.

Some children aren’t good in tests. Some children are. All children have talents which they deserve to foster and grow without being dismissed as non-achieving before they’ve had chance to develop into themselves, to decide what that should be. To do that, they need to experience variety – stifled by our curriculum – and they need to believe in the unlimited potential of their future.

Generating an environment where this can happen is what will bump us back up the world education league table, not the requirement for children to be trained in taking yet more meaningless and tests.

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