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Test mania blamed for bored children

Art and music are being sidelined for league table results, claim parents, but teachers say they are the ones piling on the pressure. Helen Ward reports.

TEST revision is now pushing out art and music for children as young as six. But while parents say that their children are bored by repetitive lessons, teachers say parents are the ones who are piling on the pressure to get good results.

Now an umbrella group, the Primary Education Alliance, consisting of the National Primary Trust, the National Association for Primary Education and the National Primary Headteachers' Association, has been formed to campaign for the abolition of the tests.

Peter Frost, chief executive of the NPT, said: "There is no doubt that more time is spent on maths and English at this time of year. I think there is a growing pressure on key stage 1." Pressure on 11-year-olds is now so intense that one in seven schools starts revision before Christmas, a TES poll found in November. Results at KS2 have risen up to twice as fast as those in the less pressured KS1.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have said widespread "teaching to the test" in Year 6 means that the lower rise at KS1 may be a more accurate reflection of how pupils' learning had improved.

Barry Knock, headteacher of St Mary's Church of England primary, in Purton, Wiltshire, said: "I think the tests have narrowed the curriculum quite significantly. I am not a head who puts pressure on teachers, but KS1 staff feel this urgency to make sure they have covered certain things so children are prepared to do the tests."

Mike Kent, head of Comber Grove primary in Camberwell, London, said: "We do revision because there are things children have to do like story writing, so we do revise but we don't cram them."

One parent, writing on The TES website, said that her Year 2 child apparently did hardly any physical education, art, design and technology or library visits. "She does literacy, numeracy and science twice a week. She is bored stiff."

Another said her infant daughter had been through a similar experience:

"While I wouldn't go as far as to say everything else went out the window, few new topics were introduced. The school was very happy with the results, a good proportion got level 3s and the rest 2s.

"Was I happy with my daughter's straight 3s? No - it was a waste of a year in which my daughter could have learned something new."

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's report on the 2001 KS1 tests found teachers felt pressure on children came from parents.

Literacy consultant Sue Palmer said: "Teachers are concerned that although tests are played down at school, children do extra work at home."

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