I love being a teacher – instilling in children a love of learning, seeing those light bulbs go on when something just falls into place. Unfortunately for many teachers, including me, those moments are becoming fewer and further between.
We are trapped in a system where passing high-stakes standardised tests is the most important thing; where children are being turned into data, which is then used to make teachers and schools ‘accountable’.
In order to get children to pass tests, we have to teach them how to pass tests, so the curriculum is narrow, boring, and not fit for purpose. It should be exciting, stimulating and creative. Primary school should be about awe and wonder; it should be about learning to get on with other people; it should be about encouraging children to think for themselves and make sense of the world around them. Instead, it has become about sounding out nonsense words, fronted adverbials, booster classes and endless rounds of mind-numbing tests.
Teachers are not opposed to assessment, we assess the children we teach in many different ways all of the time. We try our hardest to make lessons fun and interesting and to limit the damage we are doing.
But we have all witnessed firsthand what high-stakes testing does to the mental health of pupils. You will not find a Year 6 teacher who has not comforted a child so stressed out about sitting a SATs tests that they are unable to sleep, or they are physically sick. Every teacher will have had to tell a child that despite working hard, making huge progress, being talented and having many wonderful qualities, they have been deemed not ready for secondary school by pointless tests the Government has decided they must sit.
As teachers, we have had enough of being complicit in a system that goes against the values we hold dear as educators. We are standing up to say ‘no’ to a system that is increasingly reducing children to data –data that does not serve to improve their education.