Dear Nicky Morgan – a letter to the Secretary of State for Education

by Jen Faulkner

I’m  sure everyone has an opinion on our current education system. We all know a teacher, or a parent, or a child who attends a primary school and are not immune to opinions and concerns. This week the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, outlined new plans to test primary school children more rigorously. One reader does not think this is in anyway a good idea, and I have to say, I totally agree.

Dear Nicky Morgan,

NickyH&SJan10I’ve been watching the news recently and listening to how you believe that more rigorous testing for children in primary schools is the way forward, and I had to write to you to let you know that I wholeheartedly disagree with you.

One of the key points you have made is that the testing will be discrete and fun for each child. This is naive and giving children no credit. They are inherently aware of the hierarchy of ability within a classroom. They know when they are not as bright as their peers and making them compulsively re-sit the test when they have failed it (even using the word failed when talking about children angers me) will compound their feelings of low self worth. You say tests help children learn to recall facts better, but you’re wrong. Some children struggle with tests and recall no matter how many times they have to do it and, once again, this makes them feel even more of a failure.You say schools need to focus on what is important, but testing is never the way to do this. Should letting children be children be the focus maybe? Let them learn through experience and play? Children are naturally imaginative and inquisitive and have a thirst for learning and at the moment education policies are suffocating them. They need to learn through experiencing new things and putting them into practise, not recalling facts which have no place in the modern world.

Where is the fun? Where is the following of their interests? Where is there encouragement for their individuality or any celebration their unique skills? Every child has the ability to become a genius when their personal talents are nurtured. Expecting them all to know the same things at the same time is unrealistic and unfair.

Don’t get me wrong, assessments in primary schools do have their place, but need to show teachers where the gaps in children’s learning are so they can plan to fill them. Great teachers will instinctively be able to do this. Tests that are designed to show how well a school is performing do not help at all.

Children are a future generation of leaders, parents, humans. They deserve to have their childhoods treasured and be celebrated for their individual worth and talents. They need to be able to play and to show us what they know and have learnt by communication and practical tasks, not sitting down to tests that have nothing to do with them and more about how a school is achieving, or not. These rigorous tests will show a snapshot into the learning of a seven year old or an eleven year old and not the bigger picture. It takes away the autonomy and trust in teachers who are already leaving the profession in droves. These tests will put pressure on already stressed teachers to teach to the test and ignore their class’s interests and talents.

If you want our education system to be one of the best in the world then you need to start listening to our children. Engage them. Excite them. Do not unnecessarily test them.

They are all mini geniuses waiting for their time to shine.

Start taking notice.

Yours, an ex-teacher.

If you would like to contribute to the column with a letter then please email editor@bristolwoman.org.uk.

Photo: Sarah Smith

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