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Extra help takes the pressure off puils

Esther Leach looks at how one primary is coping with the results-driven culture.

Christopher Torrance and his 11-year-old classmates at Windmill primary school in inner-city Leeds, are ready - even eager - for their tests on Monday.

"They don't worry me," he said. "We've been practising with old test sheets. If I've got a problem I go to my teacher. I'm looking forward to the maths part, I like my maths."

Stacey Slater admitted to some concerns. "I'm worried I will get a bad mark but if I do, I just carry on. We've done tests before so we know what they are like and my dad tests me."

Samantha Marsden has been preparing for the tests at home as well as at school. "I do a lot of reading at home, I enjoy it. I don't have any worries about the tests. " Dale Nixon was worried about his handwriting. "I'm doing lots of handwriting at home. I'm looking forward to after the tests - then we can go out and have some fun."

All agree the tests now were not as worrying as they were when they first too them aged seven. "It was scary then because we had never done them before, but now we are used to them. We do them every year," said Christopher.

School head Sally Sumpner said the tests were well embedded in school life. "Love them or loathe them, they do help schools focus on targets," she said. "There is a great deal of pressure on schools to perform well because the results are published nationally. But they are not a burden in this school. We try to create a climate of confidence, not one of blame if children don't do well.

"I hear of schools where there is enormous pressure to do well and I have seen the cramming material in the shops, but we do our own preparation here with old test sheets.

"In the past I have used booster money to set up a breakfast club and children could do extra numeracy and literacy. But this year I've decided to get an extra teacher.

"Our results are improving steadily year on year. Last year we achieved 62 per cent, and I am very pleased with that."


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