A recent report by the Commons Committee has found that in a survey of school leaders and staff (incorporating personal views, official records and anecdotal evidence), eight out of ten primary children have been recorded as suffering some sort of mental health issues or stress related symptoms as a direct results of Sat testing. These include, but are not limited to, sobbing during examinations, sleeplessness, anxiety, fear of academic failure, loss of eyelashes through stress, lower self-esteem and depression.
This survey was released in the run up to the controversial national standardised tests in English and Maths known as Sats. It was accompanied by a scathing report on primary assessment by the Commons cross-party education committee, which warned that the current system of using Sats as a measure of school performance was creating a high pressure environment which damaged both teaching and learning in primary schools. This is not surprising. The school day becomes focused on the sole attainment of these targets rather than instilling a love or passion for learning.
This view is echoed in a paper by MPs on the Education Select Committee who have warned that the current system was leading to a narrowing of the curriculum and a “teaching to the test”. It recommended reducing the use of Sats as a measure of school or teacher performance , suggesting that a results be averaged triennially on a rolling basis. The suggestion was welcomed by teachers.
Neil Carmichael, chair of the education committee, said: “Many of the negative effects of assessment in primary schools are caused by the use of results in the accountability system rather than the assessment system itself.”
“The resulting high-stakes system has led to a narrowing of the curriculum with a focus on English and maths at the expense of other subjects like science, humanities and the arts.” He went on to say that, “It is right that schools are held to account for their performance but the government should act to lower the stakes and help teachers to deliver a broad, balanced and fulfilling curriculum for primary school children.”