[ProgressiveEd] For your attention

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Thu, 1 May 2003 14:44:58 +0000 (UTC)

Linda spotted this on the Guardian Unlimited site and thought you should see it.
To see this story with its related links on the Guardian Unlimited site, go to http://www.guardian.co.uk
Seven-year-olds losing sleep over tests, parents reveal
Rebecca Smithers, education correspondent
Friday April 25 2003
The Guardian
More than a third of seven-year-olds in England are seriously stressed out by compulsory national tests, according to a damning new survey published yesterday which shows that test pressure on youngsters is now starting in infancy. 
A poll of parents carried out by YouGov for the Times Educational Supplement also showed that one in five seven-year-olds spends so much time revising and preparing for the annual tests in the spring that they are spending less time on playing. One in 10 seven-year-olds were reduced to tears and lost sleep because they were so worried about standard assessment tests (Sats), which are compulsory in England but have been scrapped in Wales.  
By the age of 11, two-thirds of schoolchildren show signs of stress as they prepare for the tests. Around a third suffer from general stress, while a   quarter have lost confidence, and 20% have no time to play with friends because of the volume of revision.  
The findings, published at the close of the Easter teachers' conference season, came after education secretary Charles Clarke this week insisted that tests and targets were here to stay.  
However, a document on primary education to be published by the Department for Education and Skills next month is likely to make it clear that the government is willing to launch a debate about possible ways of improving and refining the tests at all three key stages.  
This year's national tests in English and maths for seven-year-olds - the so-called key stage one tests - will be taken by 600,000 youngsters next month, along with key stage two tests for 11-year-olds - with results used to determine rankings in league tables - and key stage three tests for 14-year-olds.  
The largest classroom teaching union, the National Union of Teachers, voted this week to ballot members on a possible boycott of tests at seven, 11 and 14, which could seriously disrupt the tests next year.  
At its annual conference in Bournemouth this week, members of the National Association of School Masters/ Union of Women Teachers unanimously endorsed a document on examination and testing overload called Testing to Destruction. It called for league tables to be scrapped and Sats to be fully reviewed.   
Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said: "We really are in grave danger of taking their childhood away. Children are in school for a lot of the time. It will be really sad if they lose the time to play with friends when they are at home as well."  
A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills yesterday defended the tests. "The key stage one tasks and tests have been designed to be incorporated into normal classroom activities," he said.  
"These are not 'pass or fail' examinations but provide a snapshot of a child's progress based on what children have learned over the key stage. Teachers are free to use their professional judgment to ensure that children are not taking a test that is pitched at the wrong level for them."  
· Delegates at the NASUWT conference yesterday condemned the government's "obsession" with the controversial private finance initiative scheme, which is increasingly being used to fund the construction of new schools.  
They unanimously backed a motion calling for a high-profile public campaign "to demand the end of these ill-devised schemes".  
Timothy Ramsden, a member of the union's ruling national executive, told the conference: "This should be called the public fraud initiative. It is an example of rip-off Britain that will disadvantage schools for a generation at least."
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited