Parents put through their paces to highlight 'absurd' pressure pupils face

Kingsmead year six pupil Joseph Wilshaw helps Guardian reporter Rob Goulding mark his test paper <i>(Image: Rob Goulding)</i>
Kingsmead year six pupil Joseph Wilshaw helps Guardian reporter Rob Goulding mark his test paper (Image: Rob Goulding)

PARENTS at a Northwich school were put through their paces as they re-took SATs exams to experience some of the pressure their children go through.

Alongside members of the the press, they visited Kingsmead Primary School on Tuesday where they sat through English and maths tests under strict exam conditions.

The Big SATs-In event, organised by education reform group More Than A Score, aimed to highlight the consequences of the 'high-pressure, high-stakes nature' of the exams.

Kingsmead headteacher Catriona Stewart, said: “The system, and in particular the league tables, means school leaders have an incentive to teach to the test, whether motivated by a misplaced notion of competing with their neighbours or through fear.

“Teaching to the test (when tests are so narrow) leads inevitably to narrowing of children’s educational breadth and opportunity in year six.

“It requires some professional courage to maintain a broad and balanced curriculum throughout year six, and not narrow children’s education, to meet a school’s external accountability measure.

“In our school, we say children first and adults second; the SAT tests, as they currently are can lead to a rather thin accountability tail wagging the dog.”

SATs exist so primary schools can be ranked against one another in a league table, and to ensure high schools know what standard of maths and English their new starters have achieved.

This year, 41 per cent of children across the UK were told they had 'not reached the expected standard' for starting secondary school, fueling criticism the tests heap unnecessary pressure on both children and teachers.

At other schools taking part across Cheshire, MPs also took the exams.

More Than A Score spokeswoman, Alison Ali, said: “This is more than a test of maths and English capabilities.

"It’s an opportunity for MPs to put themselves in the shoes of 10 and 11-year-olds being tested under GCSE-style exam conditions.

“They will see how absurd some of the questions faced by children are, how these absurdities influence and narrow the whole curriculum, and how they are only used to judge schools, not to help children’s learning.

“We want them to question: is this the right way to measure what children can really do? Is it the fairest, most accurate way to judge school performance?”