Do parents support Welsh standardised testing?

29 Oct

At the start of the month the standardised literacy and numeracy tests once again came in for criticism.  They have proved highly controversial and have regularly been a topic of concern for teachers.  One thing that really stood out to me in the piece in the Western Mail was the Welsh Government’s assertion that;

“We’ve also seen a similarly positive response from parents regarding testing at the end of the Foundation Phase.”

This just didn’t sit right with me I have to say.  One of the big messages that I have had when speaking to teachers is the way parents have been angry at the impact the tests have had on pupil well-being.  Teachers have faced a big backlash from parents who have felt their children have been left marginalised and disengaged from education as a result of these tests.

Last year, and again repeated this year, I conducted a survey of teachers in Wales* on a range of issues relating to the tests.  One of the questions asked if the individuals responding had received feedback from parents in relation to the tests.  It also asked if that feedback had been wholly or mostly positive; wholly or mostly negative or mixed. In 2013 the significant majority (66%) was from those who had no contact over the test.  After that it was 17% negative; 2% positive and 15% mixed.  Hardly a ringing endorsement from parents for this policy.  Fast forward to 2014 and no contact was still the most noted response, albeit down to 48%.  The numbers having negative feedback had increased to 30%; positive was down to just under 1% while mixed was also up, reaching 21%.

Curious as to how the Welsh Government felt they were on sure footing with parental support I could only assume that they had been receiving correspondence that contradicted what I and teachers I had spoken to were seeing.  I put a freedom of information request in to find out.  In it I asked for;

“all copies of correspondence (emails and letters) to the Education Minister in relation to the standardised literacy and numeracy tests from individuals or groups designating themselves as schools, teachers, trade unions, school governors and/or parents between 1st May 2013 and 1st October 2014.”

To my surprise, or rather not, there was not a single piece of correspondence from a parent backing these tests.  In fact, as you will see from the response I received here, the contrary is true.  The only parental feedback that was received by the Welsh Government was negative with parents highlighting the exact concerns about well-being that have been brought up time and again by the profession.

Interestingly enough it now appears the government line has changed.

*Details of the survey were covered today by the BBC.  I will be blogging in-depth about the findings next week.

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