Doing anything against the rules is not who I am. However there are some times in life when you have to stand up for what you believe in. The new SATS tests for primary-school children pushed me to that point.
I have a 7-year-old and he is doing well at school. When I met his teacher to discuss the new tests and she told me to expect his grades to go down I was appalled. She showed me what the expected level of written work should look like and it was equivalent to year six. My son is intelligent but he can’t produce work to that standard, so how can I assess his progress at school if these new tests show him to be at or below the expected level?
My son doesn’t worry about school, cares little about homework and does the bare minimum without concern. I don’t mind because he is 7 years old. He shouldn’t have to worry.
I have two older children though and I’ve been through very stressful and worrying times with my eldest in particular. She found primary school stressful and spent most of her time comparing herself to her peers and never feeling good enough.
When the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign started and I began to follow other people’s experiences, I realised my daughter was not alone in her attitude towards primary school. I had at the time thought she was just prone to anxiety. Stress counselling and a change of school was the only thing that helped her in the end.
Yet here I was witnessing other children around the country going through the same anxieties and worries. This is a real concern. My daughter may have moved on to secondary school now but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t support the campaign to have the primary school testing system overhauled. And with my son due to sit these new ones we were right in the middle of this whole controversy.
I called for the support of my peers but none came. That caused me to wobble a little. Am I the only one doing this? What is the point? I could hear my inner conscience calling me out on the whole idea until I went on the Facebook support group and found other people voicing my fears: “I think I’m the only one at my school doing this.”
So there we were. Little beacons of light on our own but all supporting this cause.
That gave me the courage to go for it and I handed in the pre-written letter to my son’s school.
When I was called in to see the head and informed it would be an unauthorised day off and that the local council could in fact enforce a fine upon me I almost caved again. But by then I’d committed myself. As scary as that was I was determined to go through with it.
Those little beacons of light shone across the whole country on that sunny Tuesday, ours included. They added up to thousands and gave a collective voice in support of teachers; a voice that enabled them to stand up and say we don’t agree with these tests and neither do the parents of the children we teach.
We didn’t stand on a picket line that day. Instead our day was filled with activities from start to finish.
This is what we did.
- Built a volcano out of mud and made it erupt
- Made soda fountains to see which went the highest
- Experimented with cabbage leaves and coloured water
- Made butter using jam jars and marbles
- Made a story box for creative writing ideas
- Built a Lego mini-figure display
It was exhausting but we loved it. I also gained a whole new level of respect for teachers and homeschoolers. My son was fully behind everything we did during the day. He marvelled at the experiments, asked questions and threw himself into each task. It was a joy to spend that time with him, watching him learning and absorbing all the information.
Many people didn’t agree with the Kids Strike. It took courage for me to do it and I wouldn’t have gone through with it without doing something educational as an alternative. I wanted to show the government (and the trollers) that we weren’t skiving. We weren’t having an extra day off after the Bank Holiday. We spent the day learning in the most fun way. It didn’t cost a lot of money and my intention was to send the message that there is more to school than passing grammar tests.
I hope that message came across.