Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Sam Gives PM a Testing Time

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Sam Gives PM a Testing Time

Article excerpt

Byline: By Ross Smith

A small boy confronted Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday over why he has to sit national exams at the age of seven.

The Prime Minister was at a Newcastle primary school to campaign for the local and European elections but found himself put on the spot by Sam Cottage, who is in the middle of his Key Stage One Sats.

The Hotspur Primary School pupil's challenge came as a new report also questioned the Government's use of key stage tests.

At yesterday's special assembly with the Prime Minister, when Mr Blair asked if there were any questions, school council member Sam got to his feet and asked: "Why do we have tests and exams?"

Mr Blair, at the Heaton school with Schools Minister David Miliband, replied: "If you get rid of the exams, you don't know how well people are doing. When you leave school and get a job, you have to be well educated. If you want a good job, you've got to learn at school and learn at college.

"You take exams because we've got to keep a check to make sure everyone's doing as well as they possibly can."

After the assembly, the youngster, whose teachers describe him as the school's foremost expert on outer space, said: "I thought the Prime Minister's answer was good. I think the exams are a good idea after that answer.

"Most of my exams have gone well, but I've only done the quiz books so far. I think I've still got some other tests to do."

Sam's mum, local education authority statistician Jan Hawley, 43, said: "He's been in the middle of his Key Stage One tests so it's very much on his mind, why am I doing this?"

But she added: "I'm OK with them doing their Sats. It depends on how the school handles it, but his school handles it sensitively and keeps it low key."

She said that Sam, who lives in Heaton with her and her partner Ian Cottage, a 38-year-old film-maker, and Sam's brother Jacob, 21 months, would revel in his moment in the limelight.

"He'll probably take it all in his stride, as though it's something that happens every day. …

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