School leaders from across the country were joined by MPs, experts and parents on the More Than A Score webinar on Monday 21 September.
They heard from an expert panel, including headteachers dealing with the day-to-day realties of running a school in the midst of a pandemic. The panel were united in their view that adding statutory assessments into the mix is the last thing pupils, teachers and parents need.
As headteacher Kate Owbridge said, “The data is going to be useless this year. Let school leaders decide where children are. It has never been a level playing field and it’s even less so during Covid.”
Claire Hopkins, a child and adolescent psychotherapist, highlighted the very real concerns about the effects of the pandemic on children’s mental health. She commented, “Children and young people have been disproportionately affected… and schools have an amazing opportunity to smooth their mental health. But SATs add to stress. Can we really balance the proposed benefits of SATs with the increased risk to children’s mental health?”
There was also support for the Drop SATs campaign from Westminster. Kate Green MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education made the point that “There are serious underlying concerns about the system that we’ve got” while Daisy Cooper MP, the Lib Dems education spokesperson, said, “Even before the pandemic, we knew that teaching to the test was demoralising and outdated. Coronavirus has thrown this into sharp relief.”
As the Green Party peer, Natalie Bennett noted, “The system is forcing headteachers who care very deeply into impossible situations.”
But opposition is growing. The National Association of Headteachers – represented on the call by executive member Michelle Sheehy – will debate a motion at their conference in October calling for all statutory assessments to be dropped in 2020/21. And the More Than A Score petition now has well over 40,000 signatures. No wonder headteacher Jonathan Cooper called the webinar a “powerful force and a pivotal moment”.
If you are a school leader who would like to join your peers from across the country calling for all statutory tests to be dropped in this school year, visit our headteachers page to learn more.