14 Sep Too Much, Too Young!
The new primary assessment which took place in schools back in May caused a lot of anger amongst teachers and parents with some parents leading a “Let Our Kids be Kids” protest. These tests have been introduced by the Government following a revised curriculum introduced in 2015. Previous measurements involved national levels however these are now replaced by assessment which has been under a lot of criticism.
So how does this affect the speech and language caseload we deal with?
Primarily it is the anxiety that any exam environment places on children, but for those children with speech, language and communication needs it is confounding insecurities they may already experience. Of course the anxiety is not just felt by students but of course the teachers who are now under considerable pressure to conform and perform. The implications of “teaching to the test” and whole-class teaching may have strong repercussions for the teaching style and motivation for pupils who are less able. Previous research in to anxiety in primary school children preparing for the Key Stage 2 (KS2) SATs revealed increased signs of stress and anxiety amongst children and a concern with failure where their sense of self-worth was viewed in external achievement.
Should six year olds be exposed to this pressure?
Some have suggested that it is in fact adults who are imposing their own anxieties. A recent survey from TES, Mumsnet and First News revealed that 89% of teachers were in favour of the SATs being abolished with 68% of parents in agreement compared to 56% of children wanting to keep the tests.
What this debate has revealed is the expectations we set young children. In many countries, children do not start school until they are 7. I remember being on an Elklan course with a Headteacher from Finland who found it difficult to comprehend the “need” for children to be ready for phonics when they started school. In Finland they start reading at 7 which means from a speech and language point of view, they are generally developmentally “ready” to embrace their journey in education. As a result Finland has better academic achievement and child well-being. Maybe the UK government could learn a lot from our Nordic friends!