Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Exam Week

After a weekend of revision and two further evenings of revision,
I am ready to call a halt.  
There's too much pressure on school pupils.
Of course they ought to receive an excellent education 
that gives them knowledge and confidence in their own ability.
That should be a given.    
Thousands of kiddos in the UK have just finished their week of SATS.
And not how each individual child is doing.
Which is not how most children understand it to be.
I have mixed feelings about SATS.
Truth be told, I think they are pointless.
Why do I think that?
Because kiddos who live in Wales and Scotland do not do SATS.
Independent schools in England can opt out of them.
That's not what I call a level playing field. 
The Boy Child is coming to the end of Year 3
and this week is his first proper "Exam Week".
Maths and Science are done.
English, Geography and History are still to come.
When I picked The Boy Child up today, 
I asked him how his day had gone.
He smiled and replied, "We're half-way through the exams.
  Exam week is going really quickly!" 
I'm pleased that he is happy with how things are going, ie. quickly, 
but I am worried about the emphasis his school is placing
on a formal exam week from Year 3 upwards.

So, education and testing.  
Too much pressure?
Not enough?


Abi said...

I'm the same with you Ruth. I think it is too much pressure too young. I especially agree about an even playing field. Mum teaches at an independent school so coaches her year 6 pupils for most of the year for their entrance tests to senior schools. As she rightly says, how is that fair for a child who has come from the state sector and wants to get into the same senior school because they won't necessarily get that intense coaching.

It scares me to think that when I finish these exams, I will have been doing exams every year for over 10 years. My generation are the most tested generation. In a way i like uni exams though because they actually test what I know, not what I have been trained to learn or used as measure for school performance.

I can see how exams are helpful though, especially as a raw score way of measuring progress. I just think we need to treat them lightly at a young age. They really don't define you!

Sorry rant over!

Barbara said...

I agree with you SATS are just testing the school not the children. They are too young to under such pressure. My son teaches music in school and privately and his lessons get cancelled due to SATS, he gets so annoyed that the children have to give up what they enjoy doing.

Ali said...

No need for them at such a young age. My son has finished his sats and thinks they've gone well, but who knows. He felt the pressure a little bit and couldn't eat his lunch on the Tue,and as much as we told him we didn't care how he did and that they were to see if the teachers were doing their jobs properly he still got pressure from school :-(

scrappyjacky said...

I agree with you,Ruth...and any good teacher is able to assess an individual child's progress....which is what it should all be about.

Lynn said...

Just don't get me started! Children and young people are under so much pressure! I tell my year 6 daughter that sats are for testing the school yet still she thinks she is a failure for getting a low mark. Too many government hoops being jumped through and boxes being ticked - we have lost sight of what is important. I could write an essay but I will get off my soapbox now!

Alison said...

Don't start me on SATS or on education ( ESPECIALLY Primary education) as a whole!...good luck with the remainder on Exam week and with the LA xx

debs14 said...

I work in a secondary school and I can confirm that SATS results have no bearing on how a child does in the next 5 years of their education. When my kids have been interviewed for jobs I don't think either of them were asked what SATS results they got when they were 10 ;-)

Amy said...

Well, this is an excellent topic to bring me out of a blogging/commenting hiatus Ruth!

We have a similar system here in Australia and from the same age - not sure on the UK details but the results are published openly here and then used, by parents, when making school selections. Therefore, schools manipulate the results in any way they can i.e. excluding children who are not expected to meet the standard results and coaching the classes, almost exclusively, in the material that will be tested - in short, it is appalling. The problem then extends into the home where many parents then feel they need to do 'extra' coaching of their children in order to 'do well'.

In my experience I see it only creating stress and tension for teachers, students and parents alike ... administrators tend to enjoy the 'data' however ... they are collecting something to make their positions worthwhile.

I do not believe that 8/9 year old children should be subjected to an examination like environment - schools have turned into data collecting factories at the expense of teaching a rich and varied content - so much time, here, is spent speeding through curriculum to 'get it done' and assessed that enrichment through general knowledge and the natural progression of inquiry and discussion is lost.

Hope you are all surviving as best as possible!

Sian said...

Don't start me..

This year for us, the AS levels, is one of the worst. We had that year off between O and A Levels and it was a wonderful year. I had such a good time. But today they don't have time to have a good time. I think it's really sad.

Missus Wookie said...

Agreeing with all those comments above - but then I kept my kids out of formal schooling to avoid this. Such a stress for children who see themselves judged and often found wanting :sigh: Hope TBC survives and realises that there are other things that matter more.

Lizzie said...

So much of this strikes a chord with me too. James is taking AS exams just now. The pressure has really been on since he started Year 9. He has had formal exams every year, for the past four years (and don't even get me started on SATS!). He's really feeling the pressure, even though he is good at exams and very clever academically.
History has been the real killer. They have ploughed, at break-kneck speed, through two units of the curriculum - one a "breadth study" of Russian history, over a long time-frame, the other a "depth study" of British Political history. There has been no time to stop and review or revise, no time to slow down and discuss things properly. The students are given oceans of information, which they are expected to absorb immediately... I'm sure the teaching standards are good in his school and his own intelligence and interest has allowed him to understand and work out many things, but really, it's crazy. They are then given two exams, each of 80 minutes, to write two essays per exam, on each area of study. This is supposed to demonstrate what they "know" and "have learned" over the previous eight months... And interestingly, the science exams are longer, even though there is no essay-writing to do. It is just mad and it makes me furious. How can students be expected to absorb so much information in so little time (he has been studying four AS subjects, plus an extra project qualification)? How can the exam system possibly demonstrate their understanding and knowledge, when they are not even given time to write a proper essay? Surely it would be better for every student - even those with photographic memories! - if they had the opportunity to study an area of knowledge thoroughly, learning research skills and producing a project or report, then have a sensibly structured exam, where they have time to think and draw breath? I really can't understand it all - it seems crazy.

And, as Sian says, they have had no break this year, no chance to relax after three years of GCSE studies and exams (James had exams every summer, as he took some of his 13 subjects early). The pressure is just mounting more and more. They'll return to school, after four weeks' exam leave, to start their A2 syllabus for each subject - and James won't even have finished taking his exams at that point. Then they have to write the dreaded "Personal Statement" and complete their (immensely complicated) university applications... It just never ends.
Why, oh why, do we do this to our young people - and just at the time in their lives when they are growing and developing so very fast? They have no time to "just be", or to have fun... If they want to "have a career" or "do well", they have to keep on and on and on at their studies.
It's horrible and I hate it. So do the students and teachers.
So Why?

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