Gloomy month of May

26th May 2006 at 01:00
Our school has been like a morgue this week. Silence everywhere. Bodies huddled in all available corners. Sats week. Nine separate tests in the heat. Soulless voices reading out table tests; dense reading, especially in science; some very worried children. Only 30 per cent of our kids enjoy the tests, 60 per cent struggle towards the magical level 4 and many of them achieve it on the day, just about. For 10 per cent, the whole week is an unreal farce.

I hate my school this week. I didn't become a head 30 years ago to watch children subjected to a barrage of tests of this proportion. All our six to 11-year-olds have been involved to some extent - not just Year 2 and Year 6.

There is a constant need to prove to the "bean counters" working for the Government that improvements are being made. So everyone has to be "tracked" and if the children don't improve year by year someone has to go - usually the headteacher.

The most tested children in the world all live in England, not Wales or Scotland, where they don't do the tests.

What has this got to do with learning? Many children are intimidated by the whole situation.

We all accept that examinations are important at 16 and 18. But what on earth are we doing to our young people?

And before people start going on about the 11-plus, this is much more: more than eight hours of tests over five days which everyone has to do.

Before all this, the second week in May was for residential visits - when the puffins were nesting, when wild flowers were at their best.

Now when we go on a visit, it's a rush, a treat, an extra. This week was the centre of the summer term - with a cross-curricular theme, great depth and loads of opportunities for all abilities.

Since Sats, however, quality of life, and the quality of learning for our children, has plummeted.

I ask you, what's more important: a child who has experienced wonder, built dens, waded through mud and made new friends, or a fully tested level 4 whose experiences seldom get beyond the classroom door?

Jack Cornall

Headteacher St Mary's Bluecoat school Lodge Lane The Grove Bridgnorth Shropshire

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