Children, parents, school workers and others marched on Downing Street on Thursday to demand an end to “baseline tests”.
The planned tests will be inflicted on four year olds within days of them arriving at school in reception classes. They will cause horrible stress for anxious children trying to adjust to school, and are used to rank schools against each other.
Emma Morrison, a reception teacher in London, told Socialist Worker, “Teachers don’t even get the results. They get put into a database and used to track schools’ progress. It’s just another part of the Tory agenda in schools.”
She said teachers already informally assess children and that there is “no evidence” that the baseline tests help them.
“They shouldn’t be allowed,” Emma added.
Primary school teacher Abeda Patel agreed. “The tests aren’t going to tell you anything that as a teacher you don’t already know,” she told Socialist Worker. “The government comes out with all these initiatives but they are so far removed from the classroom.
“Teachers are professionals—we can assess children without these tests.”
Desi worked in schools with children under five for 43 years, and gave up work recently. “If children start school and from day one they don’t enjoy it, they don’t want to come back,” she told Socialist Worker.
“You want children to have fun. Education is about curiosity, not just about passing tests.”
Parent Gemma spoke to protesters as they gathered at Parliament Square. “I have a child in reception,” she said. “The idea of him being tested within weeks of starting school horrifies me.”
She said the idea of testing four year olds was absurd, asking, “Have politicians met four year olds? One day you’ll ask them what two plus two is and they will say four. Another day they will say bananas.”
Elaine Bennett from the Keeping Early Years Unique campaign told protesters, “To be spending £9.8 million on these tests is a disgrace. I don’t work in early years to make up data sets about children.”
Many on the protest were angry at the whole testing regime in schools, not just baseline. Children are also put through rounds of Sats tests throughout primary school. Gemma said, “School is basically just one long statutory test.”
Desi said, “I have known parents of five year olds asking if they should get extra tutoring for their kids so they can ‘catch up’ with their Maths. There is this constant stress of feeling, ‘I’m not good enough’.”
Demonstrators marched to Downing Street to hand in a petition against baseline testing. On the way they chanted, “We are little, we are brave—we are more than a score,” and, “You say test—we say play.”
It was organised by the More than a Score campaign and has won backing from a number of MPs and councillors.
Labour MP Jack Dromey told protesters, “We are capable of winning when we get organised, mobilise parents and put pressure on MPs. Ordinary people can change the world in which they live.”