Michael Rosen: Dear Ms Morgan: this isn’t education, it’s testing, testing, testing

Writing Guardian, Michael Rosen has penned his first letter to Nicky Morgan since the election. Here’s an extract…

…Under your government, children entering the system will have different kinds of national tests, first when they arrive, again at the end of year 1, again at the end of year 2, year 6, year 9 teacher assessment, year 11 and year 13.

Most of these tests are “high stakes” because the future of a whole school community (then rebounding on to several nearby school communities) will turn on how the pupils perform. At a stroke of a pen, you can rule that the group of teachers in a school are, in your words, “coasting” and overnight, headteachers can be removed or demoted, and the relationships that schools have with each other and their locality are fundamentally changed. Yet this draconian way of dealing with the way a school works overall depends on tests that are based on narrow criteria. Subjects that should involve interpretation and reflection are reduced to single right and wrong answers. Though the arts, thankfully, are mostly outside of this weights-and-measures approach to knowledge and understanding, they suffer from being demoted in the priorities fixed by your office. I say “the arts” suffer, but I mean “the pupils”, squeezed out of benefiting from the kinds of participatory, collaborative, creative work the arts offer.

Yet saying this underestimates the effect the high-stakes testing has on the day-to-day nature of education. It breeds yet more tests. A secondary pupil in year 9 can expect to be doing a sit-down test at the rate of one a week for a whole year. The system is becoming instruct-and-test over smaller and smaller time spans…

More at: Dear Ms Morgan: this isn’t education, it’s testing, testing, testing


In the full letter Michael Rosen goes on to pay special attention for the new baseline tests for four and five year olds which, he says, will have an extra, pernicious, effect by invading the way we bring up children before they go to school (suggesting parents will look to prepare their children for the tests).

Any thoughts, feedback, reactions or challenges to the arguments Michael Rosen is making?

Please share in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Policy, Primary and Secondary.


  1. cathy_farr

    g56g Am I alone in my worry that there’s soon going to be so much testing there won’t be time to teach what’s being tested? #schools

  2. cyprusboro

    SchoolsImprove ridiculous amount of tests in schools, so much pupil and teacher time wasted and pressure the kids don’t need

  3. Busy Mum

    @cathy_farr g56g No you are not alone. I said this when the controlled assessments came in. My children do not enjoy school any more – CA’s remove all the pleasure.

  4. Busy Mum g56g Pupils in England are among the most-tested in the world.  And Morgan wants to increase this burden by introducing ‘baseline’ tests.  Testing isn’t education.

  5. When will the teachers’ unions come together and say”This madness must stop”?   Industrial action for the sake of our children is unfortunately needed.  And could parents deluge the Department of Education with letters condemning widespread testing?

  6. Michael Bassey Michael – industrial action by law has to be confined to such things as pay, working conditions etc.  The unions can’t take such action over disagreement with government policy.  The NUT has started its ‘Stand Up for Education’ campaign https://www.teachers.org.uk/parents but unions, and the NUT in particular, is dismissed by Gove et al as the ‘Blob’.

  7. pauluseto

    SchoolsImprove JcdoddsyJean It’s taking control from people to give to corporate enterprise. is what it is. Education is what it is not.

  8. Janet2 Michael Bassey Janet.  Thanks for putting me right.  I hadn’t appreciated the limitations on industrial action.  Pity.  Re “the Blob” I’d like to think that Gove was dismissed because of the concerns expressed by members of the Blob!

  9. Busy Mum

    Michael Bassey I have made big noises like this down at our primary; all the teachers agree with me but none of them will interfere with the system which employs them.
    Definitely needs parents to take the lead on this one.

  10. Busy Mum

    Janet2 Busy Mum g56g Agree. It’s why I proactively oversee my children’s education. I take from school what I want, I refuse what I don’t want, I supplement where necessary.

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