The darkest hour is before dawn, as I found on Monday. It was then that my 10-year-old daughter (Year 6) finally got some sleep. She was tired after completing the Race for Life in heavy rain on Sunday, but instead of a full night's sleep as preparation for Sats, a bleary-eyed little girl set off for school in fear and trepidation. So I began to question why we are putting this generation of children through this.
My daughter has always loved school and has been fully involved in all aspects of it - that is until Year 6. As Sats have got ever closer, so her anxiety has increased, and not because her school has put undue pressure on pupils. Her love of learning has been reduced to how well she performs in a week of tests.
Where, I asked myself, is the excellence and enjoyment in her learning? Well, actually it is there and being provided in many ways, both in and out of school. But what is the point if that is totally overshadowed by testing, testing, testing? Children are canny; you can't pull a fast one on them. To them, the occasional "arts week" or greater pupil involvement, Assessment for Learning, curriculum re-design - these are but fronts if all that matters are grades.
I have to admit, I questioned much of what I have done to perpetuate this - at home and as head of a large primary. I concluded that my conscience was relatively clear on both counts when viewed from the premise set down by the Department for Education and Skills, as I have done a great deal to help create well-rounded individuals. I welcome recent DfES initiatives and the encouragement given by visionaries such as Mick Waters of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, but fear it will be to no avail as the end product remains the same.
If the Government is genuine in its desire to create a lifelong learning culture, it must take the bravest step of all and slash this reliance on testing. If it does not, then those of us with some influence, especially when united, should act.
Mike Scriven Wick St Lawrence, Somerset