When pupils at one Essex primary were given practice Sats reading papers, they were not impressed. In fact, they found them so boring that they decided they could write a better test themselves.
So they did. Then they took it to London, delivered it to the Standards and Testing Agency and attended a meeting with education secretary Michael Gove.
"They were a bit moany about the reading test paper, so I said, `Find out about something you are interested in and write your own,' and they took up the challenge," said Tracey Caffull, headteacher of Frobisher Primary and Nursery School in Jaywick, Clacton-on-Sea.
The Year 6 pupils divided into groups and used the library to research their chosen topics. Key stage 2 reading papers contain a range of texts on a theme. The pupils at Frobisher were expected to create similar papers, an answer booklet containing different types of questions, and a marking scheme.
Ms Caffull chose a winning group, whose test was entitled Earth and Beyond. "The test papers that Mr Gove was sending us were really boring and dull and didn't engage us," said 11-year-old Daniel Beck, a member of the winning group. "My group's idea was all about space. Because we're kids, we know what kids like. I like space and my group likes space."
It was the children, rather than their teacher, who then asked if they could send their papers to the Standards and Testing Agency. "I phoned up the agency and asked if we could bring the papers in," said Ms Caffull. "They were brilliant and said of course, and that they would also come to school and give a talk. Then Mr Gove's diary secretary rang and asked if we could come and tell him about our project."
And so Ms Caffull and four winners got an early-morning train and took their work to Westminster. "The officials were really nice and friendly," said Kyle Perkins, 10. "They showed us around everywhere. It was much better there than I thought it would be. I thought they'd be really shy. Mr Gove told us he was impressed with our test."
Eleven-year-old Rebecca Berritt said that she had been a "bit scared" of meeting the minister. "The building was like a big glass box," she said. "I thought they would all be sitting in rows of desks, but it was one big room."
The tough questioning was left to 10-year-old Nikki Garnett, who asked Mr Gove what he wanted to achieve by testing "all the children". "He said that he needed to know whether they were ready to move on to secondary school," said Nikki. "I thought that was a good answer."
"It was an incredible experience for the children," said Ms Caffull. "Mr Gove spoke to them for half an hour with genuine interest in what they had to say, and the Standards and Testing Agency people have promised to come and visit us - after Sats week."
Photo by Nick Sinclair: The winning team, pictured with headteacher Tracey Caffull, wrote a Sats paper about space and then took it to Westminster.
CHILDREN v ADULTS
The children's questions
1. True or false:
- Pluto is a planet
- The sun can blind your eyes
- Jupiter nearly became a star
2. Describe the process of an eclipse.
3. More than a century ago, what planet did people think was a steaming swamp?
Key stage 2 reading paper questions from 2011
1. The article is about a caving trip. What is the name of the cave?
2. The writer is lying on his back, looking upwards. What does he say that he can see?
3. What equipment was needed for this caving trip? Tick four items:
- Hot water bottle
- Rubber clothes
- Mobile phone