When primary school teacher Ed Finch discovered that his son Douglas, in year 6, would be tested on his literacy and numeracy during a “transition day” at his new secondary school this term, he was outraged. “I thought it was a pretty shoddy and bizarrely unhelpful thing to do,” he says. Transition days are children’s first experience of their new big school – the idea is to gently help them to get used to a new, often daunting, environment, and meet children in their form group. The Guardian reports.
Douglas enjoyed the first of his two transition days at Oxford Spires academy, which included investigations in the science lab and a fun dodgeball contest, but on the second day he was faced with a multiple choice reading comprehension quiz, a “write as much as you can in 10 minutes” essay and a spelling test. “He was doing something he had never done before, in a hall he had never been in before. He was told he could only look forward or down. My son likes tests but even he felt nervous.”
Oxford Spires is not the only secondary school that has been testing primary school pupils during their transition days this summer in what University of Cambridge professor of education Diane Reay describes as a “shocking but not surprising” trend, as schools try to assess the abilities of their new intake amid concerns that Sats are unreliable. Other parents and teachers across the country, from South Yorkshire to Bournemouth, also reported transition day testing at academies in their area.
Bristol primary school teacher James Walker is considering advising parents not to send their children on transition days to local academies Oasis Brislington and John Williams in future. He says several of his year 6 pupils – including a child with autism – were distressed by the tests they were forced to sit. “We’ve got a lot of vulnerable children in our school. Transition is a really tricky time for them and it’s important they form good relationships with the new adults in their lives. Some schools are not doing a good job of welcoming our children and making them feel happy and excited about secondary school.”
Oxford Spires academy’s principal, Marianne Blake, says the tests this summer were a trial and that she would welcome feedback from parents about the arrangements. She says: “We felt this was a potentially valuable way of ensuring tailored support was in place for students when they start in September, rather than part-way through the autumn term. We will fully review the impact of this trial on our students’ progress, and only then will we decide whether to run tests on future transition days.”
Have your classes sat these tests? Do you work for an academy that sets these tests for their new intake? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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