Thank you to everyone who has contacted me regarding Key Stage 1 National Curriculum Tests (SATs) and the ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids’ campaign.
This pandemic has been incredibly challenging for everyone but I know that children and young people in school have faced particular difficulties which cannot have been easy. Many pupils have gotten in touch to let me know about their anxiety around exams and I am very concerned about the mental health impact of the pandemic on young people. Despite this the Government’s recovery plan contained nothing specific on wellbeing and mental health which is something Labour have called for.
Changes to the National Curriculum have been phased in from September 2014 and the new National Curriculum has been tested for the first time in May this year. The Government has said that the new tests have been introduced to be more challenging in order to align with the high expectations within the new National Curriculum.
I appreciate many parents are concerned about the pressure their children face as a result of these tests and I understand an e-petition calling on the Government to stop Key Stage 1 tests has been signed by over 29,000 people.
Ongoing assessment is important to help teachers and parents support their children’s education and to close any gaps in knowledge so that all children can do well at school.
However, there have been a huge number of changes to SATs specifications since children started school last September. I am concerned that instead of the concerns of head teachers, teaching staff and parents being listened to, the Government has constantly chopped and changed the exam and assessment system, adding bureaucracy and workload for teachers and creating confusion for parents.
It is also the case that the Key Stage 1 spelling and grammar test was put online early which forced the paper to be cancelled and rendered the work of children, teachers and parents null and void. After a year of challenges this was cruel. A Key Stage 2 test was also published in advance.
This long line of failures from the Government has led to a total loss of confidence amongst parents, teachers and school leaders in this year’s primary school assessment. I believe it would be wrong for the Government to use the results of these tests to hold schools to account especially when schools have been affected by the pandemic in different ways and I worry that schools in disadvantaged areas, like Lewisham, will be judged harshly when they have done brilliantly over the past year. School staff have not only taught throughout the pandemic but provided support to families in their community whether that be in arranging food parcels for those facing hardship or emotional support. Parents taking children out of school speaks volumes about the approach the Government has taken.
I remain concerned that there are enormous challenges facing our schools and I believe that the fixation with structures has been at the expense of raising standards. It is not only learning time that our children have been robbed of. They have lost over a year of socialising with their friends and other experiences which develop their emotional and social skills.
The Government must also recognise attainment is affected by issues such as child poverty and they must finally commit to a plan to tackle this. A good step would be cancelling the proposed £20 a week cut to Universal Credit and finally granting legacy benefits the same uplift which I have called for repeatedly. If this Government is serious about levelling up it will increase pupil funding, which has been decimated over the past decade, and invest in our communities so that the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers closes.
Our children deserve much better coming out of this pandemic. Labour have published our ‘Children’s Recovery Plan‘ setting out our vision to ensure that every child’s future is determined by their potential, not their postcode. I can assure you that I will continue to advocate for a system that centres the wellbeing of children and young people and offers the funding and infrastructure to enable school staff and parents to support them to achieve the best outcomes possible.