May 20: Stress of constant testing turns children off learning

From: Jo Conway, Harrogate.

I WAS interested to read the recent article by John Roberts entitled “Childline swamped by pupils seeking help over exams stress.”

Primary teachers at Key Stage 1 see and make accurate assessments of the children in their care on a daily basis without the need for Sats. This time could be better spent consolidating and mastering “the basics”. Extension activities for higher ability children are no problem at all.

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At this early stage children need time and space to “chill out”. They need to learn to enjoy their learning instead of feeling they are being continually tested. The question one asks is: What does all this testing show?

The answer is very little more than a teacher already knows. So surely, what’s the point of Key Stage 1 Sats?

It has been said that doctors, teachers and parents are seeking change as England’s children are some of the most tested, and probably now stressed, in the world.

We must make learning enjoyable, creative and yes, fun. Our young children must feel engaged and enthusiastic as only then will they want to learn and in turn grow in confidence daily. The educational methods and importantly the educational resources and tasks set must inspire, engage and challenge.

As adults, we only become engaged and inspired when our interest is captivated. It is only when we are interested that we spend time and effort pursuing our interests.

I have a passion for primary education and an interest in educational resources.

We must create a learning environment that is of interest to children and awakens their innate curiosity. One where children have the time to listen, think and communicate their thoughts and feelings. Only then will they feel the freedom to “think outside the box” and have the capacity to “link and connect” present with previous learning.This systematic scaffolding of learning experiences enables all children to build their confidence and self-esteem.

I worked in a school where we did not “teach to the test”. Instead we used creative and innovative educational resources that indirectly provided us with the information we needed to continually progress children’s learning in a supportive, relaxed and anxiety-free environment. The sheer tedium of continual testing for teachers, parents and importantly children would cause anybody to be stressed.

What we must not do is continually cram every minute of every day with tests. After all children are only children once!