School tests 'make pupils mentally ill'

EXCESSIVE school tests are making children mentally ill, a teachers' leader warned today.But, according to Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the situation could get worse when so-called "Sats" tests are replaced a new system.

EXCESSIVE school tests are making children mentally ill, a teachers' leader warned today.

But, according to Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the situation could get worse when so-called "Sats" tests are replaced a new system

She wants ministers to answer concerns about the proposed new tests, which pupils will take when they are ready instead of at fixed ages of 11 and 14.

Speaking at the union's annual conference in Torquay, Dr Bousted condemned the current testing regime, in which 1.2 million pupils sit formal assessments in English, maths and science every year.

"Children suffer stress and anxiety as the test looms and the rise in children's mental health problems cannot be divorced from their status as the most tested in the world,' she said.

"The tests label young people as failures, and this leads to one of the lowest rates for staying on post-16 of any industrialised country.

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"We also know that the tests are not reliable - over 25pc of children will be given the wrong level,' she said.

"The whole edifice on which the test regime has been built has crumbled.

"They are not accurate, they are not valid.'

Ministers want to abandon Sats and set up a new system in which pupils are entered for less pressurised tests when their teachers think they are ready.

But Dr Bousted warned that this could make matters worse.

"However, much as I would welcome the end of our current testing system, I have to tell you that I fear there are as many problems with single level tests as there are with Sats,' she said.

"The Government must be commended for looking for alternatives to the current arrangements, but we have to be absolutely on guard that what does replace Sats does not make things worse.'

She said it was "unfair' of ministers to expect every pupil to progress by two national curriculum levels in each key stage.

"Obviously, lower-achieving students make less progress at each key stage - that's why they are lower-achieving,' she said.

"So the danger is that schools with disadvantaged intakes will continue to be penalised because their students will not make the same progress as the students at those schools with more advantaged intakes.

"I think this is an unreasonable and unfair measurement of progress.'

She said there was "every danger' that the new system could degenerate into "assessment for covering the teacher's back'.

This could see "reams and reams of recording of levels with very little focus on the individual student's understanding', she said.