Dear Damian Hinds, let’s put horrid adult experiences on the curriculum

Dear Damian,

You see you’ve been talking to school students about education. I was very interested in your justification for exams being stressful:

“…when you leave school, hard and stressful things come along. Learning about what can be stressful episodes is part of the preparation for later life.” Michael Rosen, writer and broadcaster writes in The Guardian.

I wonder if there is a principle here: whatever horrible experience we have in later life should either be put on the school curriculum or be part of how the curriculum is taught. For many people, the tedium of work is one feature of adult life. Rather than leaving it to chance, can we make it policy that school should be tedious?

You were talking to secondary school students, but the exam system begins much earlier, with your key stage 1 and 2 tests. This has the advantage of building that stress in younger children. My Twitter feed this month has seen quite a few parents talking about their seven and 11-year-olds weeping before their Sats tests. The reason for this distress is that you assess schools by testing children. The children take the strain.

Anyway, Sats are not a test to help children on to the next step in their learning. They are not a part of ongoing teacher development and there is no feedback mechanism that would enable teachers to discuss what pupils are telling them that they need to move forward. All this would be an unstressful, “formative”, assessment-for-learning process which, according to Dylan Wiliam, emeritus professor of educational assessment at University College London, is the best way to raise standards.

Meanwhile, you are introducing baseline testing for four-year-olds. This has the advantage of planting stress even earlier, and there is no evidence such tests are reliable or valid.

Testing four-year-olds is notoriously dodgy: why would, say, a child who was three years old only several weeks before the test, who, let’s say, had had very little experience of being in strange environments, or of meeting strangers, be in the right frame of mind to answer questions? Why would the kind of right/wrong questions these tests are based on be a useful assessment of a very young child’s mind and body?

Read the full letter Dear Damian Hinds, let’s put horrid adult experiences on the curriculum 

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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Categories: Exams, Infant, Learning, Mental Health, Primary and Secondary.

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