TEACHERS STOOD up this week to the way the government's constant testing is destroying children's education and health. The largest teachers' union, the NUT, moved to boycott the national SATs tests for seven, 11 and 14 year olds at its conference in Harrogate. They are absolutely right. The SATs were introduced by the Tories in 1992.
Since then they have caused huge levels of stress among children, helped to kill off creativity in the classroom and led to selection in education. A survey last year by the Childline charity found the pressure of tests is one of the main reasons children as young as six suffer from stress. A staggering one in five primary school children now suffer mental health problems.
All the evidence shows that far from improving pupil's education, compulsory national testing is doing immense harm. Even the head of the privatised schools inspectorate Ofsted, David Bell, says, 'I have a very real concern that the innovation and reform that we need in our schools may be inhibited by an over-concentration on targets.'
The pressure to get children through the tests means teachers are driven to abandon every other area of the curriculum and 'teach to the test'. A recent study in the Times Educational Supplement found that 11 year olds had got better at passing the literacy test but worse at actually reading books. Revision aids for seven and 11 year olds now top non-fiction bestseller lists in outlets like WH Smith.
In many schools work on the tests, which children sit in May, begins the previous September. Children in England are put through stressful tests virtually every year from the age of five and are now the most tested children in the industrialised world.
No wonder a survey by BBC Online found overwhelming opposition to the tests among parents.