Friday 29 November 2013

Do you think children should sit tests?

This is how I see tests in schools set for children.  These are my opinions based on all I have learnt from others, what I have read and my own personal experiences...

I think tests are all good and well, there doesn't seem to be any other way to merit someone on what they have learnt. 
Saying this, I also think that in a lot of cases, that it doesn't always show what a person truly knows and is capable of - those who are more creative don't necessarily thrive in an academic exam environment, they are left to feel stupid when they might be a genius in their own way.  But then this is possibly because they have not been taught in the way they needed to as I have already discussed in my previous post, Learning styles and teaching techniques.
My exam grades do not reflect my abilities in the slightest but this time I do not what to focus on exams - the results that you are given you're made to believe will define your future career - I want to focus on tests, those little mini exams that stress you out and one never seems to question whether it's been marked correctly or not.  Tests like these are the ones that are aimed in the wrong direction. 
I have heard, over the years, several people say to me:  what is an exam?  All it shows is someone's ability to remember a few random facts that they mostly like (and most of us do to be fair) forget a few years later. 
I do think these tests show more about the ability to retain information, it shows how good someone's memory is but isn't that what learning means - to memorise?
I do think memorising things is a lot easier when you understand something and you need to understand certain subjects very well to do certain jobs like: doctors, accountants, solicitors etc.  Some occupations require you to be good at tests but not all so the question I'm really asking I suppose is...
Why are we putting so much stress on our young children? 
Some people are more practical, they can show you how to do things, amazing things but are unable to put those instructions into words.  That certainly doesn't mean that they are incapable. Tests marked by teachers in a school isn't really fair either, shouldn't it be marked by someone impartial?
What I really do disagree with is how the tests are aimed at students, students as young as 7, they're babies!  They shouldn't have these sort of pressures on their shoulders.  Surely we are stealing the fun of learning from them! 
I think that instead of putting this pressure on Primary school children, tests shouldn't be aimed to mark how successful a primary school child is, they should be given to classes of children to see where the teacher has gaps. 
I believe, that if these tests were done in this way teachers would be able to fill these gaps more proficiently, so they can work with parents (every parent is responsible for their child's education, even those in schools after all) to help each and every child reach their full potential.  
I would also suggest that tests are not given out like tests but given as a fun quiz!  A quiz that only the adults need know the result for.  After all, at that age, the test shows more about how successful the teacher and the parent has been than the student.
I understand that a school is a big place full of many more children, many more students, than there are teachers.  I understand that a place like this needs structure, needs a system.  All I'm saying is take the pressure off the children; things like tests are aimed in the wrong direction that's all.
I do think there are ways to improve the government school systems, instead of making teachers lives (therefore inevitably students lives) harder and harder with all these boxes to tick and LAs heavy breathing over teachers who are actually doing a good job; instead of putting more and more pressure on teachers and students, they could give teachers more freedom to make learning what it should be...


Surely it's just another way of schools killing creativity in children?

To be honest I am glad that I home educate my children because I do not need to ponder on this for long.  My eldest, my 10 year old, who is academically inclined, loves to be tested, my 8 year old hates tests.  She does them like worksheets, she hates to be marked and I know she's doing fine so I don't worry. 
I think schools, although it's not a facility I would like to use, has it's place in society as do tests.  I always say home education is a lifestyle choice, a lifestyle that although our family and 1000's of other families enjoy, is not the ideal choice for everyone.  Some children thrive in institutions, I mean schools and some thrive on tests and that is great, it really is.
I suppose what I am really saying is there is never going to be the perfect school system but perhaps if there is less pressure from a younger age the important exams will be a little less daunting. 

One last thing: I do wish children would stop being fed the lie that their exams will define their life.  They are teenagers!  They have plenty of time to try again!


  1. I can agree with a lot of what you've said here but wonder why you felt the need to say it? I love reading how HE is so right for you and your beautiful girls, however, HE is your life choice and you rightly say it wouldn't be right for everyone but if someone has made the choice to school their child you're undermining their decision by highlighting the stress they put their students under and how they are all fed lies. Of course those that have to work don't have the choice at all and most working mums have enough guilt to carry.

    1. Tests are something everyone goes through at some point in their lives, not many escape them. I have to think of tests/exams more and more now Chiara is heading in that direction and more and more people are talking about them and asking how I will go about putting my girls through them. I didn't mean it to undermine, as Ross said, I try to do nothing but support. I am just glad my girls don't need to go through the meaningless tests: SATs and 11+.

      Another thing that got me on this topic was an interview I had on home education which led to talking about tests in schools and I just found myself writing. Then, yesterday on twitter the subject was spotted again and this post was in draft so I finished it off. That's what this blog is after all, resources, a sneak into our lives and my thoughts on subjects I find along our journey. I am glad you enjoy most of my posts x

      The truth is a lot of people are fed those lies, government attempts to brainwash us into thinking there is only one way and people who put their children through school successfully, those who support their children and correct these lies are doing a super job I think!

  2. Great post Lisa and I agree with you. Despite the comment above I think it's VERY necessary to say it, not because you want to undermine others - you do nothing but support others, but because it SO NEEDS changing. Mums with kids in schools don't have to carry guilt - we ALL have choices and I know some of us HEors have managed to exist on a pittance so that we can make this choice for our kids. Tests are of NO value to the learners really at all! They are about politics and actually the parents of school kids could do something to get it changed! They can withdraw their kids from SATs and they can opt out of 11plus etc. It might not be comfy and the school won't like it. But hey - are schools there for their own comfort or for the good of our kids? It's because they're not WHOLLY for the good of the kids that so many choose to home educate!
    Oooops - sorry for the rant! :)

  3. Sorry my comment sounded negative Lisa, it certainly wasn't against HE's, my wonderful grandchildren are not at school and they spend a lot of time here so I know first hand it works for them. I love your blog, your resources and your reasons why you spend your time the way you do. Yes Ross I also agree the current education system in the UK could so drastically be improved but surely if you opt out of something you have already given your opinion. If you join a HE group and it doesn't fit your needs you walk away, you don't tell everyone else to change what they are doing.

  4. I don't think it was the intention here to 'tell' anybody to do anything they didn't want to! Only to try and put about ideas that may help people see things a little differently. I know some parents are so dissatisfied with schools and I think it helps parents to know that they are maybe justified in feeling like that even if they don't want to make changes, which is fine. Goodness - don't we have so many things to think about as parents? We just have to help each other along as we can! :)

  5. Great post Lisa ! Agree with all you have written, we saw at first hand the pressure that Primary school aged children are put under when our son was at school. Made to feel a failure before he was 7 on account on the SATS. When we took him out at 11, everyone was very concerned about exams-how we would manage to put him through them, especially as he is quite dyslexic. Surely I needed the 'expert' help of schools, it wouldn't be something that I could do alone.

    Well we have. Exams are just hoops to jump through. In no way do they define a person's intelligence or capabilities. The difference was that Alex could choose which subjects to study and do so at his own pace and not feel overwhelmed. Ditching subjects that he had no interest/inclination for was a huge confidence boost as was taking exams when he was ready. (We've spread them out over 5 years)

    By choosing to HE we put the fun back into learning for our son-which was what I really wanted to achieve. School made learning seem all about 'performance'.

    It's very good to put these choices and ideas out there for people to know about. Goodness I know plenty of parents who really dislike the SATS tests-!
    When I worked at Alex's school I was often asked whether certain children could be excused from sitting them (they were all supposed to take them) Many parents did not want to 'rock the boat' and refuse permission but you would be surprised how many children, (usually those who were very anxious about the tests) developed illness during that particular week :)

    At the end of the day our son got 3 offers from 3 different colleges for next year. He's chosen to study Horticulture at this stage. Life certainly isn't set in stone by your teenage exam results.
    I'm going back to college myself next year to re-train for a completely different career.