Forget testing – start trusting!

Why does my heart sink every time I read another report on testing our kids?

Read the latest in the Telegraph here.

It sinks because testing doesn’t do much good but can do a world of harm:

–          Because educating for results, which inevitably happens, is disruptive, destructive and not about the broad world of learning at all.

–          Because although it’s supposed to be a way of making adults accountable and improve, it inevitably reflects back on the children usually in coercive and unpleasant ways.

–          Because it pollutes the whole purpose and process of education which is about ongoing individual development, not chasing short term outcomes.

–          Because it creates labels – usually inaccurate ones – about the ability of a child which can entrap them for life.

–          Because the need to measure and have statistics is an adult obsession which only fulfils parental and political objectives and is of no value to a child.

–          Because every character and personality, every genetic and environmental influence is different in every child, but tests test as if these were all the same.

–          Because testing doesn’t make children cleverer or more educated, it puts them off and wastes their time.

–          Because it makes a farce of education, turning it into a grade grabbing race that leaves too many failures in its wake, rather than being an uplifting process and approach to life – for all – that carries on throughout life.

–          Because it assumes every child is the same and will grow in the same way in the same time and same climate which is totally wrong. Children are all very different and change radically as they grow.

Think about growing plants – the educational process has often been compared to that. When we set plants we know different ones need different approaches; different soil – sandy or peat, acid or alkaline, they need different climates – warm or cool, light or shade, open or protected. And however much you go out there with your ruler and measure how much your plant has grown, it’s not going to make one little tiny bit of difference whether that plant will thrive or not!

Same with education. As the famous educationalist John Holt said; nobody grew any taller for being measured.

Raising and educating children is a long and unpredictable process that is at the mercy of all sorts of intangibles; everything changes constantly as it happens. We cannot control it most of the time. We can just make it the best we can as we go along.

Constantly measuring it will not help the process one bit, but it will certainly hamper it through focus on outcomes which are outside the child, rather than focussing on the needs that are within.

What we need to do is trust, review our approaches and our parenting constantly, create a climate that is warm and encouraging, stimulating and supportive and our children will grow and become educated. Constant testing and measuring, and the unpleasant outcomes that result from it, are not necessary. They are not to do with the child, but are to do with our own adult failings.

We should sort out our adult inadequacies and have more respect and faith in our children than that!

16 thoughts on “Forget testing – start trusting!

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  4. My daughter is in year 6 about to go through SATS. I really didn’t realise how much of this year would be dedicated to revising for the tests! She has been given daily homework for the Easter hols too…. And is it worth it? She came home with a list of spellings to learn recently. One of them was ‘vexatious’ – she could spell it perfectly but had no idea what it meant!

  5. I couldn’t agree more. At 4, my daughter is about to enter the education system – we’re just awaiting news of her school placement. She is excited and so I am for her, too. But I’m also apprehension. So far her learning has all been acquired through fun and she’s enjoyed it, and while she enjoys the odd little fun ‘quiz’, I so hope her love of school isn’t drained with constant tests ad measures that are there for the government, not for her benefit at all. Time will tell, I suppose, #MBPW

    • Thanks so much. We tried school with enthusiasm and excitement but ours got drained like you say! I so hope it’s different for your family and your daughter has a happy time there. Thank you for commenting – it’s great to know people have visited. x

  6. Overtesting of our 12 year old daughter back in 2002 was a major factor in moving to home education. She (and we) never looked back. Free from the stress, she flourished. She went to uni at 18 and now has a job she enjoys. Her five siblings are following suit, hopefully all the way to a happy adulthood.

    I am sure the teachers with a strong vocation must be equally angered by what they are being forced to deliver as an education. As you say, it is an adult obsession with measuring. I could go on for hours about this…

    My one concern is that I know there are many severely disadvantaged under 5s in deprived areas who turn up at school barely able to converse. I know because my husband teaches in schools all over the country. I think it may be the parents of these children who need help with parenting. May be they need a little education on the importance to the child’s development of talking, singing and playing with them.

    Always good to read your blog Ross. Must write a bit more on mine soon…if only it weren’t for the exams approaching, I might have more time. Slight irony there, methinks!

    • Such a valid comment Helen, thank you very much for taking the time to write it here. You are right in mentioning the children who have less advantageous parenting, whose parents probably had the same etc….It’s so important for people to realise that parenting, education and raising a child are all one and the same really! So great to hear your story. Thank you!

  7. Absolutely agree with EVERYTHING you say Ross! If our government were brave enough, employers could use lots of methods of finding out someone’s ability to do a job, other than looking at a set of grades! We could do away with ALL testing and exams!!! My blood was boiling today when I saw a class of 5 and 6 year-olds sitting in silence at their tables doing a written maths test. I know for a fact that many of them will not have been able to even understand or read the questions, let alone work out the answers. Doomed to failure from the start, as they were all expected to do the same test.. Very timely blog! Rosie the reluctant primary teacher!

  8. Oh! It makes me SO angry I felt physically sick when I first heard that this was going through!
    We are going to home educate ours (1 and 2), most probably til the end of primary, but will play it by ear- and even if we weren’t, we wouldn’t send them to school until they were at least 7 years old anyway! The whole system has completely lost the plot, and I care too much for the vitality of my own two (and hopefully many more) children, to put them through this. I actually feel livid on behalf of all children, but aside from voting (and what choice is there anyway- they are all pretty much the same), I can’t protect them all. But I am at least making it part of my online presence.
    I agree Ross, keep writing this stuff.

  9. I almost fell off my chair when I clicked over and read that headline! What on earth are they thinking?! Those poor children, I’m so glad we’re out of that system now! R x

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