"Sats are making learning nit-picky and joyless ": One parent's open letter explaining why she is taking her children out of school today

One mother writes an open letter to the education secretary Nicky Morgan explaining why she is joining thousands of other parents to protest against primary testing

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Dear Nicky,

“I’m stupid.” That’s what my seven-year old said to me with tears in his eyes. 

Thanks for that, Nicky.

This one is not on me. This one’s on you. I’ve worked hard to build his self esteem. Stupid isn’t a word I’ve ever taught him. Ever used in relation to another person. Though when I think about current educational policymakers, I’m tempted to break that resolve.

This one is definitely thanks to you.

I’ve worked hard to show him that it’s OK to get things wrong, to not know things. That no one’s judging him. This isn’t what learning is about.

Thanks for correcting us on this.

You know the annoying thing? I haven’t ever had to try to convince him that learning is good or fun. I didn’t have to. Because, like all children, he is naturally curious.

Why are you trying to change that?

The past two years - year 1 and 2 - have chipped away at that. It’s not really the SATs, the tests themselves, it’s what they stand for. It’s the scorched earth policy that they create. It’s the focus on tedious technicality over inspiring ideas. It’s making learning as nit-picky and as joyless as possible. It’s removing the freedom to get something wrong at the age of seven and not feel that there’s something wrong with you. 

So it seems that your ‘education’ and mine are clashing. What you want for my child, is not what I want for him. It’s not what I want for any kid. He is coping. But he shouldn’t have to.

So what can I do? Well for a start, I’m taking him out of school on the 3rd of May. 

We deserve some time off. To remind ourselves about learning without noticing and enjoying it. Sounds awful, doesn’t it?

My other reception-age child is coming too. He still likes school because there’s room for fun in the Early Years Curriculum. Enjoy it while you can, kid!

I’m not going to tell them why we’re taking a day out, by the way. This is my fight not theirs. 

You may be doing your best to destroy their attitude to school, I won’t do the same. They don’t need any more about school than they’re absorbing already.

You see, this is the difference between you and me. I want them to like school. I want them to enjoy learning. And I want them to feel good about themselves while they do it.

Why don’t you want that for them too?

It is not my son who is stupid, Ms Morgan.

One day out of the school year isn’t enough to protect him from what you’re teaching him. But it is at least a start.

Kate Byrne (a pseudonym)

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