HELEN BURTON: Thoughts on the SATS tests boycott

Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001
Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001

As I wrote this thousands of parents across the country were preparing to keep their child from going to school {FRIDAY MAY 6] as a boycott against SATs testing. The national boycott has been arranged by parents who are increasingly concerned about the effect the tests are having on their children, and the way that the curriculum is changing.

One headteacher in Sussex has resigned over the issue claiming that schools are now ‘factory farming children’, citing the narrowing curriculum and plans for all schools to be academies.

Many educational specialists share the same concerns, as do I.

My concern with SATs is not with the tests themselves, it is how they are presented to children.

If children just sat down one day in class and completed them as best they could they would neither know nor care about their significance and would be caused no distress by them whatsoever.

The results would then be a true reflection of what children know. Unfortunately I know from experience that in order for the schools to get the best results (and let’s not forget the idea of the SATs is to test teaching standards) children are subjected to weeks of practice, extra tuition and are put under a lot of pressure to perform well.

Teachers teach to the tests, the importance of the tests is drummed into children and in my opinion something of the true nature of education is lost. My youngest daughter has escaped this experience.

She is autistic and goes to a state-funded, private, special needs school.

Her school doesn’t do SATs testing, and understands that some children would be unable to cope with the pressure exerted by SATs.

In mainstream schools there are many children with special needs who are forced to take part in SATs with their classmates, because the education system doesn’t take into account the needs of children when it comes to testing, it’s all about results. Surely the point of education is to make sure children grow up understanding the world around them and can get a job when they are older?

Reading, writing and numeracy are key skills but when I hear the Education Secretary state that ‘arts subjects limit career choices’ it makes me shudder.

I had to home educate my daughter for a year before I found her current school. (I then had a four-month battle to get her a place there).

After years of struggling in school, during the year of home education her love of learning slowly returned.

We visited museums, libraries and art galleries, watched documentaries, read together and writing was fun. We were part of a big home-education community in Eastbourne.

Whilst it became apparent that she needed more specialist teaching than I could offer, I do miss those days.

It taught me that education can be fun, fluid and happen anywhere.

Good luck to the boycotting parents who will be teaching their children a very important lesson.

The government work for us, and they need to listen to us. If they don’t then together we can make our voices heard.