Some children are losing sleep

11th May 2001 at 01:00
Phoebe Robson is only seven but she is losing sleep over national tests. She and her 11-year-old sister Georgina, both at Guilsborough primary Church of England in Northamptonshire, are sitting SATs this year.

Her mother Karen Robson says that, while Georgina knows what to expect, Phoebe is concerned and has been losing sleep. "No one can explain to me why my daughters should sit these tests - I cannot see any benefit.

"What started out as an assessment of the school has turned into an examination of the child, which is not my understanding of what was supposed to happen," she said.

"Parents can tell whether their child is achieving without the need for formal tests. I feel they are wrong.

"At the age of six you should be paying attention to the colours you will use in a drawing, and whether it has princesses or cowboys in it, not to the tests you will be doing next year."

Mrs Robson, who runs her own business, says she fears a prescriptive education system will stifle creativity and entrepreneurialism in the nation's children.

"Only a handful of parents support them - the parents of the high-achievers. Phoebe has a wonderful personality and skills which you cannot measure in these tests. In the end it really doesn't matter to us how the girls do."

At Guilsborough tests have been on the minds of staffand pupils since December.

Two voluntary after-school booster classes per week, each around 45 minutes long, have been organised for 11-year-olds not on course for level 4 - that includes about half the school's 32-strong Year 6.

Last Thursday, the 11-year-olds at the small village school were sitting at individual tables in the school hall for a dry run of the maths test.

Children from both age groups have been working on practice papers, and Standards Fund money will pay for an extra teacher to cover lessons and maintain normality while the tests take place.

Headteacher Philip Henretty and his staff decided to hold the key stage 2 tests in the hall because "if they were held in the classroom I could not put my hand on my heart and say no cheating had occurred".

He added: "And we would have to take down the wall displays in case the subjects covered cropped up in the science paper."

But while Year 6 gets a taste of exam conditions, Mr Henretty insists that the seven-year-olds are treated more gently. He said: "We would not think of putting Year 2 in the hall. To be honest, the younger children enjoy doing tests, it's a break from their normal routine."

Certainly on Thursday the seven-year-olds were more concerned with their teacher's birthday than the forthcoming tests.

Lisa Hutchins

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