‘Let our Kids Be Kids protests are more damaging than the tests they so dislike’
- Credit: SIMON FINLAY
Some six- and seven-year-olds were on 'strike' from school on Tuesday.
They were filmed and photographed outside schools with their parents holding placards demanding 'no more SATS'.
This so-called 'kids action' was so wrong in so many ways.
Parents pushing children to the front, shoving a banner into their hand and hiding behind them to make their point is involving them too much; exposing them to exactly the kind of stress they purport to be protecting them from and verging on the distasteful.
They called their protest about excessive classroom testing 'Let Kids Be Kids'. But by telling the children these tests were bad went against the very name of their campaign.
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Their children would probably have never known they were even taking tests if their parents hadn't gone on about them at home for months before.
The action was less about stress for the children than stress for the parent, read: CPS (Competitive Parent Syndrome).
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These are the parents who want to know exactly where their children rank in the class for literacy and numeracy and what a school is doing about it.
Ironically, the tests they so vehemently oppose are exactly the type of tests that help to create the league tables these parents most likely pored over to choose the school in the first place. Even moved house to live in the catchment area.
Dragging children into cleverly-orchestrated stunts to make political points is odious. Protest, by all means. Collective action works. But be honest enough to do it yourself.
Wave your own placards and organise sit-ins outside the Department for Education or Parliament, write letters and gather signatures. But leave the children out of it.
Children are too young to understand the nuances of protest. All Tuesday's action will achieve is to make life harder for them and their poor teacher the next time little Arthur is expected to do something he doesn't like in the school day. He'll think he can walk out in protest. And telling children that tests and challenges are wrong could instil an irrational fear of exams, which will damage and disadvantage them throughout their schooling and working life.
Better they get used to performing under pressure young, learning coping strategies, than getting a huge shock when they hit the years of annual testing.
I've watched my own boys be completely unfazed by the big milestone exams because, coming from the SATS generation, they are so used to the annual routine of exam timetables and all the preparation that entails it's just part of the process.
Parents were insisting they took action to protect their children from the stress and anxiety of Key Stage One tests. But what was more harmful I wonder: the test or the effects of the strike?
We all know these tests are designed to test the teachers; to check they are doing their job and pick up the children who need extra help to stop them from falling through the net.
So many adults are struggling through life today with poor literacy and numeracy skills because they managed to go through 11 years at school unnoticed. It's always been a mystery how teenagers could go to school every day but no one did anything to help them, but so many did.
If these tests prevent this happening to a new generation, parents should embrace not condemn them.
And no parent wants poor teachers for their children.
The difference between an inspiring effective teacher and a bad one is a whole year's learning. Children gain 1.5 years' worth of learning with very effective teachers, compared with 0.5 years with poorly performing teachers.
Children who fall behind in the early years struggle to catch up in later years. If by the age of seven, a child has not mastered the basic skills of reading, writing and mathematics, they are likely to struggle for the rest of their lives, especially poorer children.
Parents complain tests make teachers turn classrooms into exam factories for small children. But a good teacher will make learning exciting and engaging, whatever it is.
Excellent teachers are like gold dust. Schools must treasure them. I'm a great believer in paying these teachers more than those who merely tick the boxes.
Parents interviewed on TV spoke about their children having tantrums and nightmares because of the tests.
I don't believe that any teacher would bang on to six year olds about future tests – but I've seen parents interrogate their tiny tots about what goes on in the classroom and piling on far more worry at home than at school.
Strangely, on the other side of the coin, parents desperate for their children to get into private schools think nothing of tutoring four-year-olds for assessments, unbothered by the potential effects.
Testing at six is merely to gather information in the best interests of the individual child, their future learning and the effectiveness of the teacher.
Challenging children is a positive aspect of school and expecting them to rise to expectations is part of shaping resilient capable citizens.
Parents involving children in criticism about what happens in their classrooms just makes life harder and more confusing their for children.
Isn't that exactly what these parents don't want?
•The views above are those of Rachel Moore. Read more from our columnists each day in the EDP.