Hackney’s education chief Anntoinette Bramble joined a protest against primary school SATs in Stoke Newington on Friday in support Labour’s policy of ending the tests and scrapping the league table system.
The Scrap the SATs jamboree, held in Clissold Park and hosted by Hackney North Labour Party and the Hackney branch of the National Education Union, was billed as a creative protest featuring face-painting, games and bubbles for children to highlight opposition to the SATs regimes in primary schools.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced in April that Labour was now committed to ending SATs and the ‘destructive’ competition of school league tables. The event also coincides with the launch of a month-long consultative ballot of National Education Union members in primary schools to gauge support for a boycott of work around SATs and other “high stakes” tests in 2020.
Bramble, Hackney’s deputy Mayor and cabinet member for education, told ELL: “I’m here to support the event today to celebrate education and to welcome what Jeremy Corbyn and Angela Rayner have said about scrap and testing. We’ve heard from teachers and children that the system now doesn’t work anymore.”
“The Chair of the Education Select Committee, who is a Tory, said that the system we have been placed at the moment is more about teaching children for testing rather than teaching them to equip for the world. So we’re all saying let’s relook at the system. We as a Labour administration would look at that system.”
Hackney North secretary Maia Kirby, herself a primary school parent, told ELL: “The current high stakes tests place unhealthy stress on children, distort the curriculum and promote destructive competition between schools.”
“I am very concerned about the pressure being applied to young children. The current intensive system of tests sucks the joy out of learning and is branding all too many children as failures.”
Dave Davies, Hackney National Education Union secretary, said: “The tests are about comparing schools and encouraging them to compete rather than assessing children in a way that actually helps teachers support learning instead of forcing them to ‘teach to the test’.”
According to the 2017 survey of primary school teachers conducted by the National Education Union, 95 per cent of the teachers said that preparation for SATs does not support children’s access to a broad and balanced curriculum. 84 per cent of teachers said the high stakes system had a particularly negative impact on children with special education needs and disabilities, while 58 per cent of teachers thought that SATs disadvantaged pupils with English as an additional language.
The survey also shows that 84 per cent of respondents reported their schools held additional booster classes for Year 6 children. However, according to the National Curriculum Assessment report in 2018, more than 35 per cent of all Year 6 pupils did not achieve “expected standards” for reading, writing or maths.
In April, the National Education Union annual conference in Liverpool has backed the ballot midst mounting concern about the impact of the current testing regime on children’s well-being as well as the additional stress it poses for school staff and parents. Teachers are to be balloted on whether the boycott should take place next year.