New coalition of parents and teachers calls for 'toxic' Sats to be suspended after pupils left in tears

Campaigners say pupils should not have to sit 'ridiculously difficult' Sats next year

Eleanor Busby

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Parents, teachers, school leaders and psychotherapists have joined forces to call for next year’s Sats to be suspended.

More Than a Score, a coalition launched today, is calling on the government to convene a fully independent review of primary assessment conducted by experts in early years and primary schools.

The new campaign – which brings together parents’ groups, child psychotherapists and psychologists, experts in early years and primary education and the NUT –  believes the current system of testing in England is deeply flawed and results in a narrowed education.

The formation of the coalition follows the government’s assurances that primary assessment will be reviewed in 2017.

Education secretary Justine Greening revealed that she would be abandoning the government's controversial plans for Year 7 Sats resits and promised that there would be no new national tests or assessments until 2018-19.

But Ms Greening's comments haven't put all concerns to bed. The NAHT heads' union started an indicative ballot of members for a Sats boycott just two days after the announcement.

And now More than a Score is looking to meet with Ms Greening to demand that 11-year-olds should be spared the same high levels of stress as this summer.  

Siobhan Collingwood, headteacher at Morecambe Bay School, Lancashire, said: “[Last year] I saw children trying their best and putting their heads on the tables halfway through a ridiculously difficult reading test and crying because they realised they couldn’t finish the test in time.”

She added: “[The government] hasn’t made a change to the system that was so toxic for the children last year. Why are we still doing that to children this year if the data from it is not good enough to be used by external sources and has prompted a national consultation into assessment?”

Madeleine Holt, co-founder of parent group Rescue Our Schools, said a quarter of the Year 6 pupils in her children’s school were “in tears” after sitting the reading test last year.

But she added: “I cannot fault the school in terms of how they prepared my child and everyone else for those tests.

"Parents are waking up to what's going on and they are galvanising [...] We are tired of teachers being mistrusted. We want to give them hope."

The group claimed there was evidence of an increase in numbers of children suffering from school-related anxiety, mental health problems, and who become disengaged from learning.

Alison Roy, from Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP), said: “We are concerned that constant testing could have a detrimental effect on brain development and the mental wellbeing of children."

The morale of teachers and schools leaders has also suffered, contributing to increasing problems of recruitment and retention, the group said. 

Ms Collingwood added: “We are struggling because our experience of the testing regime is rather like being battered over the head by a blunt truncheon that doesn’t understand us or the children that we work with.

“There is anger in the profession like I have never known it before. Enough is enough. We are not going to keep on doing this.”

Supporters can add their names to the More than a Score campaign here. 

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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