CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Head backs calls to scrap tougher exams

Tests are a 'way of making children feel like they are failures', say opponents

11 November, 2016 — By Ella Jessel

Gospel Oak School

A PRIMARY school headteacher has backed a campaign calling for the government to scrap tough new national tests over fears children are being labelled “failures”.

John Hayes, head of Gospel Oak school, in Mansfield Road, said the new Sats tests pile pressure on schools and focus too heavily on results rather than on giving children a well-rounded education. Over the summer nearly half of all 11-year-olds failed to pass the tough Year 6 Sats exams, drawn up to assess children’s grasp of the recently introduced primary curriculum.

The tests sparked outrage amongst parents and a new campaign, More Than A Score (MTAS), was launched last Thursday urging the government not to go ahead with the tough new exams and calling for an independent review into primary assessment.

Backing the campaign, Mr Hayes likened the new Sats to high-jumpers suddenly being told they have to jump an extra six feet.

“There is nothing wrong with raising the bar from time to time, and increasing aspiration is okay too,” he added. “But what happens is they have raised them to such an extent that there is a risk of motivation disappearing. “Being ‘secondary ready’ isn’t just about their ability to read, write and add up, it’s about people being able to go forward in the world. There is no measure for that.”

Education chief at the Town Hall, Angela Mason, said she “shared some of the concerns” of the MTAS campaign.

“The language of the tests contains some cultural assumptions that make the tests more difficult for some children than others and may not have been a true reflection of children’s ability in reading or mathematics,” she added.

Madeleine Holt, a Camden parent who is involved in MTAS, said at one school pupils were left in floods of tears after the reading tests, describing the exams as “cruel”.

Ms Holt said: “The tests are too hard. They have been made hard because the government wants to raise standards, but making tests harder is not a way to raise standards, it’s a way of making children feel like they are failures.”

Last month the government backtracked on controversial plans to make pupils who fail their Sats resit the exams in the first year of their new secondary school.

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