It's a testing time for seven-year-olds

More than one million revision guides for seven-year-olds have been requested by parents. What is going on?
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Parents are a competitive lot. It doesn't matter if it's A-level chemistry or cycling proficiency, the first whiff of examination and we're priming our kids, unwittingly piling on the pressure to do well. I'm as guilty as the next well-meaning mother of setting too much store by test results.

Parents are a competitive lot. It doesn't matter if it's A-level chemistry or cycling proficiency, the first whiff of examination and we're priming our kids, unwittingly piling on the pressure to do well. I'm as guilty as the next well-meaning mother of setting too much store by test results.

It starts the moment they're born. Within minutes of giving birth to my first baby I was congratulating myself on his high Apgar score. A couple of years later I actually resorted to seeking out inside information in order to coach my son for "test success". It was only a developmental check with the health visitor but by the time I'd finished with him, my son, Louis, was an expert "brick stacker" and was totally up to speed with the set text: The Ladybird Book of First Words.

A few years on, now that my energies are divided between three children, I've developed a more laid-back approach to their educational development. Pressure of time means that my youngest is more likely to be found practising her "Steps" routine than her Flash cards. But is my new "laissez -faire" attitude really due to a desire not to put pressure on my kids to do well academically, or am I verging on the lazy and uninterested? A recent conversation got me thinking.

"How old is Rose now?"

"Nearly seven," I replied, scarcely believing it myself.

"Ohh, Year 2", my schoolteacher friend replied ominously. "Is she ready for her SATs?"

I knew that Rose would be sitting her "SATs", or Statutory Attainment Target tests, sometime during the forthcoming summer term but I hadn't given them much thought.

Now I was suddenly beginning to feel like a "failing mother". Perhaps I should be helping her to prepare for these tests in some way.

But revising for exams at seven - surely not?

Thankfully, my daughter's school seems to take a quite a low-key approach with SATs coming and going with the minimum of stress and disruption to pupils (or parents). But sadly this is not always the case.

Kerry, the mother of 12-year-old Sophie, remembers the fuss surrounding last year's "SAT" week. "Year 6 were told how important these tests were and that they must not take time off school during exam week - even if they were ill."

Seven-year-old Lizzie, on the other hand, is busy worrying about her first round of national tests in May. "We take a very relaxed view," explains her mother "and have never put any pressure on Lizzie. But, she's been coming home from school saying she's nervous about these tests, so somehow a feeling of anxiety is being transmitted to her."

As a parent, it is hard to ignore the hype surrounding these examinations.

I'd always thought that "SATs" were no big deal. No need to worry, no need to cram, just a "snap-shot of your child's performance at a particular point in time".

Well, try telling that to the BBC. It's difficult to switch on the TV at the moment without catching a trailer for their revision service. Launched last year, ReviseWise is the BBC's latest multi-media initiative and is aimed specifically at 10- and 11-year-olds taking tests this summer. "The interest in ReviseWise has been phenomenal," say Annabel Cameron, the product manager at the BBC. "In January, around the time we launched our web-site, over a million of our guides were requested by parents and teachers - that's more than the number of Key Stage 2 children actually sitting tests this year."

Down at my local bookshop it's the same story. Publishers such as Letts and HarperCollins have been quick to produce a range of study guides aimed at primary school children. I was genuinely surprised, not only by the number of books available but by the way material promising "instant test success" is targeted at children as young as seven. "This sort of material is very popular with parents," says Alison East, a "children's buyer" for Waterstones. "At the moment we're re-stocking every day, with some titles selling out completely. The BBC's Key Stage 1 and 2 past papers are very popular."

So, it transpires that the more clued-up parents among us have been gearing up for this SAT thing for months, boning up on relevant subjects and poring over past papers with their little examinees.

But I'm not worried. After discussing my daughter's revision deficit with another schoolteacher friend with a rather cynical take on the subject I realise that Rose has nothing to fear. "Don't forget," she reminded me, "these will be the third set of figures for a government pledged to improve education - so this years SATs results are bound to be good."

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