Thousands of parents to take children out of school in protest over 'stressful' exams

Some primary schools expect half their pupils to be taken out of school for a day of 'fun learning' outdoors

Rachael Pells
Friday 29 April 2016 12:30 BST
Primary school children aged 6 and 7 will sit exams for a week in May
Primary school children aged 6 and 7 will sit exams for a week in May (Getty)

Parents across England are preparing to take their children out of school for a day of protest over “unnecessary” new examinations and a lack of creative learning within the primary school curriculum.

The protest, organised by anonymous members of the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign, comes as head teachers warn that children as young as six are becoming anxious and stressed over National Curriculum tests (SATs).

Almost 30,000 people have signed a petition in favour of the SATs boycott on Tuesday May 3, with thousands pledging to take part in a day of “fun learning out of school” with their children to promote the value of creative outdoor learning.

In an open letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, campaigners said their children’s mental health was at risk from the stress of sitting exams too young.

“Children as young as six are labelling themselves failures and crying about going to school,” the letter said. “All year, their curriculum has been centred around comprehension and arithmetic in order to pass these tests.

”Outdoor learning has decreased, childhood anxiety has increased, games have been replaced with grammar, playing with punctuation.”

“We want an end to SATs now.”

In May, Year 2 pupils are due to sit a week’s worth of exams as part of government testing policies. The new curriculum has been met with concern by teaching unions who have called for Key Stage 1 and 2 SATs to be suspended.

One campaign organiser said as many as 50 per cent of children in some schools are expected to take part in Tuesday’s “strike” action.

“We’re doing this as a group of parents and teachers who are just fed up,” she said.

“Teachers will still be working, and there may of course be some parents who think it’s not for them but that’s ok. We’re doing this to show our support for teachers who are speaking out against the new test requirements.”

More than 10,000 people have posted details on group Facebook pages of around 200 events planned for parents around the country to attend with their children during Tuesday’s boycott.

The “alternative learning” events include picnics, visits to wildlife reserves, woodland trails and arts activities.

Campaign leaders said that the majority of head teachers were understanding of the boycott day, with one school in Newcastle Hotspur set to take all of their pupils out of school for the whole day.

One parent said: "My children will be striking, not just for themselves but for every child in the country who has to suffer a curriculum which is slowly becoming so narrow and yet so hard that learning is becoming a chore".

An anonymous teacher added: “The current assessment arrangements and the culture of testing goes against my principles and beliefs. I will not stand by and watch this Government destroy education. I fully support parents and believe that together we have strength.”

Let Kids Be Kids have prepared template letters for those wishing to protest to present to their head teachers, but schools have warned they could face fines for taking children out of school without permission.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ”We know mastering the basics of literacy and numeracy at primary school has a huge impact on how well children do at GCSE, which is why we are determined to raise standards.

“We have updated the Key Stage 2 tests to reflect our new, more rigorous curriculum, which will help every child fulfil their potential regardless of their circumstances.

”Tests help teachers identify and provide the support pupils need as well as giving parents a picture of how their child is doing.“

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