Are we testing Peterborough children too much?

Councillor Nicola Day of the Green Party
Councillor Nicola Day of the Green Party

League Tables provide information on end-of-Year 6 SATS (statutory assessment) tests and GCSE results. But what league tables do not do (and probably cannot do) is provide an accurate sense of all that teachers do to inspire students, and to encourage them to use their creativity in bold and insightful ways, writes Green Party councillor Nicola Day. 

Many teachers dedicate time during the evenings and at weekends to delivering lesson plans that go far beyond what is measured by the tests. They do so in the belief that they are bringing tangible benefits to their students’ lives, motivating them and inspiring them.

During his time as Education Secretary, Michael Gove’s “reform” of GCSEs encouraged “teach-to-test” and removed teacher-led assessments and coursework elements from many GCSEs.

Teachers were no longer encouraged to engage in individual learning styles.

Ofsted is slowly waking up to the benefits of a more holistic approach to education, with Ofsted Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, saying that Ofsted will challenge those schools where too much time is spent ‘teaching-to-test’ at the expense of teaching creatively. While teachers and teaching unions welcome Ms Spielman’s remarks, narrow accountability measures (such as league tables) have yet to be abolished and schools are still measured by the percentage of pupils following SATS, EBacc, GCSE and Year 8 attainment results.

Government plans to test Reception, Year 1, 4 and 6 pupils by 2020 are not welcomed by many teachers.

I teach English to GCSE level. I have seen how the rigorous regime of endless testing has led some teachers to leave the profession. Teacher recruitment and retention has become a national issue. Measures to improve teachers’ wellbeing could include giving us more planning and preparation time within the school week. A focus on celebrating the successes of pupils and teachers within our schools would also be a welcome change of direction.

The Green Party wants to develop an education system that will nurture a desire to learn throughout life. We believe in a child-centred approach to learning, which builds on the skills and interests of each individual child. We will abolish Ofsted and restore local authority control over education, ensuring that control and inspection of our schools rests with their communities. We will abolish SATs and league tables and encourage creativity and outdoor learning for all pupils. We would address the crisis of teacher workload, with measures such as abolishing Ofsted, and reforming the curriculum so that it is pupil-centred, freeing up teachers to teach. 

Education should mean liberation. Teaching should empower children through the acquisition of knowledge with tools that enable self-expression. Our current system places unacceptable pressure on both teachers and pupils, draining the joy from learning.

It is time to end the culture of testing. It is time to listen to teachers.

It is time to make learning creative again.