It’s that time of the year again and teachers, children and parents across the country are gearing up for the high stakes Standard Assessment Tests or SATs. These tests were initially designed to indicate a pupil’s progress at various ages, and were supposed to be administered without students even knowing they were being tested.
Cut to the present day, and not only are teachers teaching to the test, but children are being taken out of their normal school timetable to spend hours doing practice tests. The pressure doesn’t stop at home, where pupils continue to cram for homework, affecting their holidays and their mental health.
Tests are a part of school life in this country. But more and more parents are realising that they are not a compulsory part, and are choosing to take their children out of the testing circus. Is this the best thing for children? Would staying out of the rigmarole of testing ensure a better childhood and learning experience? Or would it side line and ostracise the children who do not have test scores to their names?
As a teacher and tutor with decades of experience, I have seen literacy and numeracy standards steadily fall. While schools must take some of the blame, I think parents should examine themselves before blaming everything on the education system.
If you are a busy, full-time working parent, what do you put in place to support your child’s reading and academic development? It is important to prioritise supporting your child however busy you are as the ages up to 11 is a crucial time for developing and nurturing their long-learning habits. So ask yourself honestly, when was the last time you read to your child? How often does your child see you on your phone or on social media or in front of the telly, instead of immersed in a book or spending time to talk general knowledge with your child.
Children learn from their parents, and the adults around them, as much as they learn in classrooms. As parents, we must take some of the share of the responsibility when we see that pupils are no longer learning or reading as a natural part of their daily lives, outside of school.
In some ways, the SATs are showing us that unless our children study for tests, most of them are not able to pass. This might be the fault of the tests, where they ask questions that require answers that are not intuitive and instinctive. However, it could also be that children are not actually learning.
Childhood is a time when the brain is exploding in size and depth. It is the perfect time for children to absorb knowledge and learn how to think, and they do this almost through osmosis. However, if we find that, despite hours and hours of drilling in facts and figures, metaphors and similes, children are still not able to manage tests easily, the entire system of school and education might need a serious and urgent rethink.