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Swansea school governor calls for national tests for primary pupils to be scrapped

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: May 21, 2014

Alexander Roberts promoting the online petition against tests for primary children

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A SCHOOL governor is calling on the National Assembly for Wales to scrap numeracy and literacy tests for primary pupils — because of the stress and anxiety they cause children.

Alexander Roberts, who is a governor at Bishopston Primary School, said the tests were a poor measure of young children's learning progress, and that children suffered from suddenly being put in an alien testing environment, without the problem-solving tools they were used to using.

And he has now launched an online petition calling for the Assembly to remove the national tests for primary school children.

He said: "At this time of year, the tests cause stress and anxiety in children who are too young to feel this way about going to school. Parents also suffer as they watch their kids getting more anxious and distressed.

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"Along with other teaching professionals I believe the tests are a poor measure of a young child's progress and learning as they force the youngsters to work in silence and without the problem solving tools they are used to using, both contrary to their regular modes of study.

"Usually they are talking to their peers in class. They are having to answer questions without that, and to solve questions in an environment that is incredibly alien to them.

"They become anxious to do well, and are suddenly under pressure to be thinking about the future, and. 'Will I be good at this test?'"

Mr Roberts said his seven-year-old son was happy at Bishopston and performing well, and praised the teaching staff.

But he said feedback from other governors supported his concerns.

He said: "Bishopston is a good school, but at the age of seven it should be about a nurturing a safe environment. It is not the staff, or the teaching.

"Governors agree it is madness to expect young children who might have the sniffles one morning to then perform in these tests. By making children perform on the day, if they are off colour then there is a black mark against you. At GCSE age, young people are more emotionally able to deal with pressures.

"Parents are not happy with it and teachers have to implement the tests on top of the moderation they do, which is at odds to how they usually work."

The Welsh Government said the tests were diagnostic and many teachers used test diagnostic tools available on the Learning Wales website to pinpoint areas of strength and areas where further development was needed for individual learners and whole classes.

It said independent research into the tests found that, in 2013, the 86 per cent of education staff had used test results to inform their teaching plans, 85 per cent to inform pupil targets and identify weaknesses and 82 per cent to provide more targeted support to learners.

A Welsh Government spokesman added: "We will not be scrapping reading and numeracy tests in Wales. Primary schools have traditionally used tests; the national tests provide a standardised approach.

"They allow teachers to track individual children's progress and to gain a clearer insight into each child's development and progress, so that they can intervene at an early stage to prevent children from falling behind. It also allows teachers to identify children's strengths and to provide appropriate challenge to ensure they reach their full potential."

The petition can be found at www.assemblywales.org/epetition -list-of-signatories.htm?pet _id=1015


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