Educating without testing

Feel free to share, borrow, post elsewhere and help change minds!

It was among the most commonly asked questions when we were home educating. Two most commonly asked questions actually.

Firstly, do you test them?

Secondly, how do you know they’re learning if you don’t?

I have two questions in response: have parents ever really thought about the value of the tests kids do in school and what they show? And, don’t we know our children anyway?

It’s so sad that parents have been so conditioned by political propaganda to believe that education cannot progress without testing.


This is continually being proven by home educated children who become educated people without ever having been tested in the conventional, schooly way at home. Who still go on into higher education. Who still go on to sit exams – often their first taste of formal education. And who still go on to get the grades they want.

Okay, any wise parent would perhaps suggest some kind of practice papers first. But all other forms of testing, especially standardised ones (no child is standard) are usually a complete waste of a learner’s time, are not valuable developmentally, and can even be extremely damaging in that they label, create self-fulfilling (inaccurate) prophecies, often degrade and are in no way a fair representation of a person’s capabilities, knowledge or aptitudes.

But another insulting aspect of the practice of continually testing children as conventional schooling does, is the assumption that a) children don’t know themselves well (how would they in school – they never get an opportunity to really find out) b) the teachers don’t know the children (how could they when so much time is wasted on box ticking rather than truly getting to know the kids in their classes) c) the parents don’t either because they are so excluded from the educational process and treated as if they are ignorant.

The educational and testing system, that has been devised by politicians wanting to make themselves popular, has taken learning away from the learners and created one for an adult agenda. The adult agenda of needing to measure, or needing to satisfy social one-up-man-ship, of needing to prove something to someone else. The kids are used as pawns in adult games and testing has been the means by which this happens.

Many parents home educate just to get away from this harmful practice that furthers a youngsters education not at all.

And, as many home educators find out or already believe, becoming educated is a continuous, ongoing, personal process that doesn’t need measurement, is up to the individual, albeit facilitated by others helping that individual understand how to make their place in the world through their education and how to contribute. It therefore should be owned by the individual and not by the state. And consequently should not be constantly tested – purely for state purposes – which is the way it is.

Many home schooling families facilitate their young people in becoming competent, social, intelligent, productive, educated and qualified (those who want to) without testing ever having been part of their learning experience.

It’s such a pity that schools can’t stop this political game playing and do the same. The only way for that to happen is to keep testing and politics out of it. The youngsters (and teachers) would be a lot happier, have time to learn and discover a lot more, understand themselves better, and possibly the numbers of those with dwindling mental wellness would begin to drop!

There are many parents who believe that children are more than a score, who want to let kids be kids, and end the testing regime. But it needs many many more, especially those not involved in home education, to demand that this ludicrous testing system be stopped.

And be bold enough to believe in and practice education without testing.


11 thoughts on “Educating without testing

  1. Pingback: Learning results from the simplest things | Ross Mountney's Notebook

  2. having been “schooled” for 19 years, i still remember how testing has really enslaved me as a child. all those years of gruelling revision, mostly done entirely on my own, plus the testing was really too much for a young child/adolescent. the children come out of their rooms after the test having this huge responsibility on their shoulders, as if the test ultimately determines the degree of their success in their “imaginary chosen career”. when we return to our normal class after the testing, we are marked and/or herded based on our test results as if it was natural selection. this also affects a child’s “social ranking” in school. the older children bullies by isolating the “weak ones”. they start building cliques based on the marks they received. now, i realise how testing can really damage a child’s mental health but, obviously, the schooling system has refused and/or completely neglected it. with our DS, who is still quite young, we will definitely only use practice papers. however he performs, there will be zero threat to him as he will not be compared to his sibling nor with other children. i am pleasantly surprised that the “no GCSE” route is an option. we will explore that in a few years time. thank you ross. your blogs are always so helpful.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your comment here – really thought provoking and most unsettling! Sadly true though! And great to have your view as a child being tested. Thanks again – much appreciated.

  3. I’m a teacher, as well as a mother of four. The amount of box-ticking and trying to make the stats look great far outweighs the actual assessment of our children’s abilities. I’d love to do a PhD on assessment, my eventual aim being to help completely change the way we help our children discover their own strengths. Education is about facilitating learning and progress, not testing how well someone remembers a lesson.

  4. Q How do I know they’re learning?
    A Usually when they tell me something I didn’t know, or ask me a question to which I don’t know the answer…

  5. Brilliant as ever Ros and huge love for mentioning Let Kids be Kids and More Than A Score who have been fighting back on behalf of those still in the system either by necessity or through lack of knowledge of home / World schooling.

  6. I have come to realise that this is one of the biggest areas of challenge for those that choose the school route, they simply cannot envisage learning without testing and somehow you are a neglectful for not making it part of your child’s education. I have lost friends over this. I am now walking the path of really not wanting to go down the GCSE route, my eldest is not interested in exams and really doesn’t want to take them, we are totally supportive of this but it has created some interesting conversations with folks who think differently to us. I find it so waring to have to justify our decisions when, if you go down the conventional school route, you don’t have to justify that to anyone and I would not be so rude to suggest that you should not go down that route. You are so right that these things have become so ingrained that we don’t question it or consider the impact of a particular type of schooling.

    When you know your children well, as we home educators do, you don’t need to test. My mother taught for 25 years and she found the changes bought about by the national curriculum and subsequently testing so depressing and undermining of teachers innate abilities to ‘test’ the children themselves. If teachers were allowed to get on with the job properly they would know exactly where the children were at at any given time. The thing that worries me is the fact that the young teachers now are products of this testing system themselves and don’t know of any other way, it won’t be long before the proposition of teachers taught this way is the majority, we may have already reached that, how then do we change to more teacher led system, I wonder?

    • Thanks so much for your great comment and taking the time to leave it here. I know what you mean about the no-GCSE route as we did that too and it was tiresome having to explain, when school users never have to explain their choices; actually – they probably don’t make choices most of them!
      I think we can only ever change this test-led system through school – using parents, being the consumers, making a stand against it as they are beginning to. But whether there’ll ever be enough of them to outnumber those who do’t want to be bothered (and I appreciate many don’t have the time), remains to be seen.
      Always enjoy your comments – thanks for posting.

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