"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, April 11, 2010

School Testing Is A Human Rights Issue

From the MailOnline:

Primary school SATs tests are robbing children of their human rights, the leader of the National Union of Teachers claimed today.

Children have a right to a broad education under international law and should not be made to continually sit exams, Christine Blower said.

Her remarks came as a committee of MPs warned that SATs - taken by 11-year-olds in English and maths every spring - were promoting a culture of 'teaching to the test'.

The testing regime encourages teachers to drill pupils to pass tests, damaging their education, said the Commons Schools Select Committee.

The NUT is in the process of balloting members over a boycott of this year's SATs, due to be taken just four days after the election.

The National Association of Head Teachers, representing thousands of primary heads, is balloting its own members over the boycott, which would involve refusing to administer the tests.

In a keynote speech today to the NUT annual conference in Liverpool, Miss Blower warned that youngsters were being reduced to 'measurable outputs'.

She said that under the United Nations convention on the rights of the child - which Britain signed in 1991 - youngsters are entitled to an education that develops 'their personality, talents, mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential'.

But SATs undermine the right, she said.

'Some of the Articles are about basic human rights; these include the right to a name, the right to be safe and the right to be educated in the round, not only to pass exams,' she told delegates.

'I think that's a pretty high authority on which to rely when we say the SATs regime is wrong and it must go.'

She also said: 'The NUT says "yes" to risk taking and exciting approaches to learning and "no" to children as little bundles of measurable outputs.'

Both Labour and the Tories have pledged to keep SATs, although Schools Secretary Ed Balls has said they are not 'set in stone'.

The Tories say they should be made more rigorous and possibly moved to the first year of secondary school.

Meanwhile MPs on the Labour-dominated select committee repeated their warning that SATs are narrowing the curriculum.

In a report titled From Baker To Balls: The Foundations Of The Education System, they warned that tests undermined teachers' ability to devise creative and innovative lessons.

The report was produced after the committee heard evidence from four former Education Secretaries - Kenneth Baker, David Blunkett, Baroness Estelle Morris and Charles Clarke.

'We were surprised by the wholehearted support from former Secretaries of State for the level of testing that we have now,' the report said.

There had been a 'relentless trend towards increased central control' since the late 1980s, it said.

'We reiterate that we are not opposed to the principle of national testing. Where we do have concerns is the use of the same test for a range of purposes that cannot all be met at the same time,' the MPs said.

'If pupils' attainment is used to judge teachers and schools, teachers cannot be expected to be dispassionate assessors of that attainment, and teaching to the test is a likely consequence.

'We therefore have reservations - as does Ofsted - about the effects of national testing in concentrating teachers' efforts upon certain areas of the national curriculum.'

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