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Guardian Letter

Here’s a letter to the Guardian in response to the recent Cambridge Review of Primary Education.

The Cambridge review is absolutely right about calling for the abolition of Sats (Too much too young: start school at six says key report, 16 October), and I support this summer's boycott. Sats have turned the primary curriculum into a desert of work sheets, short extracts and a fear of failure.

In the English Sats, examiners have unleashed an abuse of the empirical method by making the reading of literature into a tedious and stunting exercise in fact-spotting, even as children themselves have been reduced to percentages and scores. I have been a school parent continuously for 30 years and visited hundreds of schools. In all that time it has never been any use to me that any child, mine included, be talked of as a number or a level.

The government's education policies were devised without a public debate about how children and teachers learn. You can only do this through the four processes of observation, investigation, discovery and discussion. In fact, finding out about learning has to be at the heart of every teacher's and every school's practice. Children's work itself should be built upon the four processes, with imagination and play as part of the mix.
In the very first key stage 2 Sats paper, the candidates were asked to say what was in a matchbox in a story by Jan Mark. The only correct answer was "nothing", and yet the fun of the story is that the children "fill" the matchbox with their fantasies and ideas. "The children's imagination" would have been a wrong answer. Sats have turned many classrooms into places where children's imagination is always the wrong answer.



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