'Excessive' testing of primary pupils will cause mental health problems and behavioural issues, heads warn

Kaye Wiggins

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The “excessive” testing of children at primary school will trigger an increase in mental health problems, low self-esteem and behavioural issues, school leaders have warned.

Speaking at the National Association of Head Teachers union’s annual conference in Liverpool today, Jayne Williams, head of a Cambridgeshire primary school, said the introduction of baseline tests, phonics checks and Key Stage 1 performance indicators meant there was “just too much” testing of young children.

“We feel strongly that this excessive testing will [lead to] an increase in poor self-esteem, low self-confidence, increased mental health issues and further social, emotional and behavioural issues,” she said.

“What about the child who doesn’t achieve the required pass mark?” Ms Williams went on. “They are labelled as failing.

“A child with special needs could be labelled as working below the national standard in Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2 and throughout their school life. How can this be right? What does it achieve?”

Delegates at the conference passed a motion that said the amount of national testing of primary-aged children was “excessive and is not good for them”. The motion called on the NAHT’s national executive to commission a study into the effects of testing on primary-aged children. 

In 2010, the NAHT and the NUT joined forces to co-ordinate a boycott of KS2 Sats, but it was unsuccessful in persuading the government to abandon the tests. 

Writing in yesterday's TES, primary teacher Jack Marwood argued that today's primary pupils are severely over-tested. "Data is king and our youngest pupils have become its subjects," Marwood writes. "Isn't time we fought back?" 

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Kaye Wiggins

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