For many Year 6 children in English education this has been a roller coaster of a week. But here, strangely, children have conducted themselves with calm, attention, hard work and a worrying lack of worry! Part of this is because as a school we have been very clear about what generally low importance should be placed on these tests, and despite the occasional and initial disturbing parental reaction, parents have since resolutely supported us in that. However, the main reason for calm lies with the consistent professionalism, care and refusal toward over-concern demonstrated by Helena and Emma, our Year 6 teachers, and by Ranbir and Michelle, the TAs who work alongside Y6. Their testimony is that the consistent message to children that
- their best is always good enough, and
- their performance in a test does not in any way alter our high regard for each of them
is enough to create the quiet confidence needed by children to give themselves the best opportunity to do well.
In a way, it is both touching and heart-rending. The tests themselves have been unreasonable, badly written and in places (notably the first of the two reasoning papers in mathematics) designed to enable children to fail. Hearing children bravely reporting that “they felt that they done their best” even when the paper was bordering on unfair, cut me to the heart. That anyone can imagine for a moment that results from such badly constructed tests have any real meaning whatsoever, is simply a mark of wishful thinking.
But there they are, Nash, Morgan and Gibb, still doing the bidding of the great white hope for education…
At Parent Council last night, a question was raised about whether we as a school should manage the children’s expectations prior to them receiving their test results. This came from one parent who felt that given the DfE’s own expectation of percentages of between 55% and 70% “meeting the required standard” (= “pass” in Morgan-ese), we need to help children see that the world is not as black and white as maybe the result will encourage them to see it!
In fact (as I had to remind one parent who felt that children “ought to know the world is about pass or fail”) most of children’s test outcomes up to and including the class of degree they get at university have a high degree of gradation in them. That is what makes these “met the standards/has not yet met the standards” philosophy so cruel and out of kilter with the way the world actually works.
If we want to set tests at the end of each year (as, for instance, in the US or Germany) to allow access to the following year, then we are talking about a systemic overhaul and we have better be plain in what we mean.
So, let us loudly praise the 60 children who sat the KS2 tests this week, for resilience and courage and keeping their heads. Let us praise their teachers, Helena and Emma, who have led them to this good land of knowing that they are more than their test results. Let us praise Ranbir and Michelle and the many other TAs who supported/read to/scribed for children this week, for helping without putting pressure on, and who thus, in every possible way, enabled children’s success. And let us praise those parents, the glory of their children, who have given to them the courage, love and clear understanding that whatever else these tests mean, they affect not one jot the conditions pertaining to the way they are loved and beloved.