Standardised Testing Continues to Fail Welsh Pupils

21 July 2016

Standardised testing continues to leave pupils and schools distressed according to a national survey of teachers in Wales. The research, conducted by NUT Cymru show that after four years the literacy and numeracy tests are even more divisive than ever. Some teachers have even expressed the view that they are considering leaving the profession rather than continue to subject pupils to the testing regime.

Wales' largest union for qualified teachers are repeating their calls for a review of the system which is undermining the impact of the Foundation Phase, hindering children's emotional and educational progress and leaving teachers to question their long-term commitment to the profession.

Some of the headline figures from the survey include:

  • 97.5% of respondents did not believe the tests were a positive experience for pupils (up 4% from the original 2013 survey).
  • 29% of teachers said they had been preparing pupils for over 4 weeks. That's up from 10% on the first year of testing.
  • Overall 86% of teachers felt the tests had added to their workloads, up 7.5%.
  • In 2012, 33% of teachers said they received contact from parents in relation to the assessments and that these were almost exclusively negative. This year's results showed that the figure was now 56% with the majority stating it remained negative or mixed at best.

NUT Cymru Secretary, David Evans, said:

"Once again we see an alarming level of anger and frustration from teachers when asked about the impact of these tests on pupils and on their working conditions.

"The headline figures are extremely worrying but what is particularly worth highlighting is the fact there is a rising level of opposition to the testing. Far from being convinced by standardised testing the profession is becoming increasingly disillusioned with the policy.

"Perhaps the most depressing evidence is the anecdotal feedback from teachers in regards to the impact those tests have on their pupils. Children are being left demoralised, in tears and with low self-esteem. This is not the outcome any teacher or parent wants to see and it is certainly one of the reasons cited by teachers for considering leaving the profession.

"There is a new Cabinet Secretary in place at the Welsh Government. These tests are not her policy. We have written to Kirsty Williams with the details of this survey and hope a fresh pair of eyes can lead to a new way of thinking, in particular for the very youngest children and in light of the Donaldson recommendations around a less intrusive approach to assessment."

Notes to Editor:

The survey was first created on 11/4/2016 and closed on 4/7/2016.

The survey follows identical surveys which have been held each year since the national tests became statutory in 2013.

A total of 287 teachers responded to the survey. A figure consistent with each of the past four years.

The final question asked for any additional views. A selection of direct quotes from teachers about the tests in reply to the survey are copied below:

  • "I want to hang my head in shame for what I'm doing to the mental health of the children in my care. I'm ashamed of being a part of a system where all the encouragement of the past year is wiped away by a cross on a scale which says they aren't good enough. I have seriously considered leaving teaching rather than be part of this testing regime again."
  • "Tests show nothing that teacher assessment would not tell us and puts staff and pupils under unneeded stress"
  • "Year two testing contradicts Foundation Phase ethos. The children are too young to cope with this type of formal examination."
  • "Very stressful for children who are just learning the skill of reading. You would not test a fish on how well it could climb!!!!"
  • "My main concern is that pupils become anxious and disheartened by the tests. Most parents told me that they are against the tests as they do not enhance their children's education and a high percentage of pupils did not want to come to school during the testing period."
  • "What's the point of them, what are they doing for the child apart from giving them something to worry about? And the teacher? Could have given you the results in October, we know our children. A total waste of time and money."
  • "Impact was very negative for pupil wellbeing. Some couldn't sleep, crying etc."
  • "Who are we testing? The pupils or the teachers? I do not see any benefit from these so called diagnostic tests, I know what my pupils can and can't do; that's what I trained to do and have 17 years' experience of doing! A complete waste of time!"
  • "The toughest part is giving the tests to the pupils with Additional Learning Needs who have worked hard all year and have made super progress since the start of September. They are finally feeling confident in themselves but then you have to hand them a test paper that is far too difficult for them. It is not good for their self-esteem and I feel terrible putting them through it."
  • "7 year olds come to school for engaging, happy and stress free lessons and environments. These tests had most of even the most confident children in tears."
  • "Tests are a waste time but not nearly as bad as moderation which is a complete joke. Hours wasted in meaningless tasks and for what? They just confirm what we already know!"
  • "Why, when we spend the whole year tailoring learning to meeting the needs of our pupils do we then have to give them 'a one fits all' test? The reading paper especially concerns me as this is 'a one fits all' over TWO year groups. I have had children who went to pieces in both before and during the test who are now worrying about their results."
  • "Overall I feel they offered nothing but undue stress for children. They haven't impacted positively and many children were upset and panicking."
  • "Utter, demoralising waste of time for pupils"
  • "Completely at odds with the philosophy of education we are encouraged to teach . Hours spent differentiating tasks, providing exciting and stimulating learning experiences, building up positive relationships with our pupils are destroyed. We are spending time continually weighing the pig instead of fattening it!!! As a profession our expertise is not valued."
  • "A significant number of children found the testing experience difficult and stressful. Testing has had a negative impact on pupils' self-esteem and confidence."
  • "Children are stressed and worried and I work in a school where we don't mention the tests until they are upon us and we try to play them down. A truly sad experience for the children in my care, it is so demoralising for some."