Boiling blood…

You wouldn’t think one piece of paper could set blood boiling! But that’s what happened to a friend of mine the other day when she unearthed an old forgotten page from nearly ten years ago.

It had on it the CAT scores for her then eleven year old daughter. These are the Cognitive Ability Tests used in schools, a bit like SATs, which are supposed to predict future grades and establish where to place a child within the school system.

Those of you who read this blog will know that schools’ obsessive testing of children is one of my biggest hates. Tests are an unreliable and inaccurate assessment of a child’s ability. They can damage a child’s progress for life with labels that stick. They influence decisions which in the long term can inhibit opportunity and therefore achievement. And this is exactly what happened to my friend’s daughter.

Her predicted grades at eleven years of age were D and E. Shocking to think of a child’s future potential determined at the grand age of eleven. She was placed in a class of disruptive children who didn’t want to learn where she was extremely unhappy. And the decline set in.

Her mum was incensed. Both she and I knew that her child was not a ‘low achiever’ as the label implied, wasn’t at the time and certainly wouldn’t be for the rest of her life as this score seemed to suggest. She was hard working and intelligent.

But she was separated from her friendship group, who were in a high achieving class, and she couldn’t settle. She couldn’t pay attention in lessons because of the behaviour of the rest of the group. She regularly became ill and hardly managed a full week at school. In the end her mum decided to remove her from school to home educate, work with her at home to improve her grades in the hope of her moving back into the class she had grown up with.

It wasn’t just the grades mum had to change but also the attitude of the teachers who took these results as gospel, didn’t want to change their view of her child, and had her down as an interfering parent.

It’s a good job she was an interfering parent. Thanks to her interference and work the child gained a place in a more appropriate class when she returned to school. She went on to achieve As and Bs and is now studying at University. So much for CAT scores!

My friend is glad she didn’t tear them up as she wanted to do at the time because she now has proof how wrong test results – and schools – can be. Without the faith of an ‘interfering’ parent the outcome would have been very different.

I wonder how many children who don’t have ‘interfering’ parents are graded for life at the age of eleven, or younger, and miss out on opportunities they have a right to? It sets my blood boiling too at the thought of it.

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2 thoughts on “Boiling blood…

  1. This made me smile Ross, because I too, was perceived as an ‘interfering’ parent. The teacher at my sons’ primary school used to hide, when she saw me coming ~ but if we don’t intervene, when it is so obviously needed, the damage caused, can be irreversible. Thankfully for us, that hasn’t happened.

    The experience of your friend’s child, being placed in a teaching group, based on the outcome of testing, is all so familiar, and the effects on the child that followed, too close to home, for me to want to remember. It all seems like a horrible dream now…

    My son’s Art teacher in his new school told him, at age eleven, (he was still ten, six weeks before, due to being an August birthday) that he would never be any good at Art. What an observation to make of a ‘just’ eleven year old, and how clever of that teacher, to be able to see in to the future. I was of the understanding that teachers were supposed to encourage?

    Based on the outcome of CAT testing, my son was also placed in a teaching group that was both disruptive and unproductive. He often came home, with only one line of writing in his school books that represented a day’s work. Luckily, we worked out what was happening and ‘interference’ came in a very big way this time, and we removed our sons from the system.

    Thankfully, now aged fifteen and home educated for the past four years, my son is working towards his Art GCSE as well as other subjects. He attends a weekly art class, led by an inspiring artist, who saw so much in his talents, that she had nothing but praise and encouragement for him. Needless to say, his confidence has soared and so have his achievements. He has produced some beautiful work, that on occasions has left us speechless, and we are tremendously proud of him.

    A friend once said that “everyone has their time” and I suppose they do, to a certain extent. Mine didn’t come until I was in my twenties, but sadly, my time at school was miserable. I didn’t want this for my sons…

    I’d like to think that my children are ‘having their time’ now, but together; we’re having the time of our lives 🙂

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