Letters extra: Testing trauma

9th May 2003 at 01:00

As an early years teacher and parent of an unstatemented mild to moderately dyslexic seven year old, I was very disturbed to witness at first hand the trauma caused by a practice SATs paper sent home as homework. I wish I had a video of the chain of events as my son attempted to complete the paper "on his own" as instructed by the school; I'm sure it would have shocked the powers-that-be into reconsidering their position on testing at such an early age.

My son announced with great enthusiasm that he was going to do his literacy SATs by himself in his room. After a few minutes he was frustrated because he was stuck on a word that prevented him from getting meaning from the text, but he didn't want help "because it was a test". In a normal reading situation, if he couldn't get a word by applying the usual strategies I would intervene, enabling him to continue. This situation was not normal - my son was supposed to be doing it on his own - and he knew he was failing. His frustrations increased and his concentration decreased.

I have spent the last two years building my son's confidence and self-esteem by working with him on his reading. He's making good progress but still needs a scaffold of support and plenty of encouragement. What he does not need is to feel isolated, under pressure and a failure.

At least my son could cry and stomp about at home, but not in SATs week. The frustration and anxiety will be internal and silent and no-one may know the damage caused. I now feel very concerned about the issue and am wondering whether I should allow him to go through the experience.

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