Teachers put to test: As pressure for an exam boycott grows, Donald MacLeod assesses the mood

'SIX MILLION pieces of paper - that's in our school alone]' Whether or not this estimate of the impact of national curriculum testing on a West Devon comprehensive is accurate, it encapsulates the frustrations of thousands of teachers who feel caught up in a meaningless paperchase.

Secondary English teachers have been most vociferous in calling for a boycott of tests for 14-year-olds, but they are not alone in their feeling.

Primary teachers have implemented the tests for six and seven-year-olds for three years but are still deeply uneasy about their value. 'I dislike having six-year-old girls in tears in my classroom,' said one primary teacher at the National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference in Brighton yesterday. 'I can't honestly think of one direct benefit,' said a primary head teacher.

The six-million figure arrived at by three Devon English teachers was based, more than half seriously, on assessing nearly 2,000 children in 10 subjects at 10 levels, each in five attainment targets with five strands to each.

'It has vastly increased our workload,' said one of them, an experienced member of staff. 'It is all very unwieldy. We are teaching to and for the tests.'

'All this number-crunching - just to come up with a single number at the end,' complained a colleague. 'We have taught the children for three years and we can discuss in detail what they have done.' His school had been forced to spend around pounds 1,000 on Shakespeare texts. They had been teaching Romeo and Juliet already but at different times with different groups, and so had not needed a complete set of texts.

If the paperwork was complicated, the tests themselves were too crude, they felt. 'We were flogging ourselves stupid trying to teach the whole text and then the test asks pupils to put pictures in the right order. We might as well have told them the story and not done the text at all.'

Jean Carrick, head of Bidbury First School at Bedhampton, Hampshire, strongly denied that the Sats, as the Standard Assessment Tasks for seven-year-olds are known, had been accepted by primary teachers because they had not boycotted them. 'The fact that we are doing them for the third time does not mean they are any better, merely that we are accustomed to being downtrodden.

'It takes an enormous amount of time - time that teachers have to take out of their personal life - to administer the paperwork and prepare classwork for the other children, and learning time which children themselves lose.'

She said a bright seven-year-old might be tested on reading at Levels 2, 3 and 4. Level 4 demands 25 to 35 minutes of individual contact on the teacher's part. 'It merely confirms what the teacher knows and I think the parent will already know the child can read.'

Her school already tests and grades children according to reading age. Chris Holmes, head of Birch Primary at Colchester, Essex, also complained about the loss of teaching. 'It is having a bad effect on teachers and that indirectly affects children. There is enormous pressure on the teacher.'

Mr Holmes said he wished the union had taken action three years ago. 'There isn't a high proportion of militant members in Colchester but they still feel angry and frustrated.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy