Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Whispers from Westminster

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Whispers from Westminster

Article excerpt

When it comes to Sats, we all need to grow up

Jonathan Simons writes weekly about policy and education

On Tuesday, thousands of children and parents went on strike in protest at the Year 2 Sats. A woman on the radio told how her daughter had been placed under such intolerable pressure that she was coming home crying and waking up with nightmares. As a parent of two small children myself, my heart broke. "My goodness," I thought, "what an awful way for the school to behave."

This boycott has put government and headteachers' organisations in a quandary as to what position to take on the campaign and how aggressively to promote or attack it.

Because make no mistake: any situation in which a six-year-old is driven to tears is entirely the fault of the adults around them. If children are stressed about these tests - which have no consequence for them - then they have picked that up from the attitudes and behaviours of home and school.

Yes, these tests have consequences for schools and so put pressure on heads and teachers. But if being a professional who works with young people - or frankly, being an adult - means anything, it is having the maturity to absorb that pressure rather than passing it on to small children.

As a parent, the government argues, your job is to protect your child from issues that are not appropriate, including making it clear to the school when you feel that its messages are unreasonable. By contrast, ministers say, going on strike is a terrible way to respond. …

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