What the profession think of standardised tests in Wales – Part II

7 Nov

“If my future were determined just by my performance on a standardized test, I wouldn’t be here. I guarantee you that.” – Michelle Obama

In the first part of my blog looking at the survey of teachers I’ve conducted in Wales regarding the standardised literacy and numeracy tests I looked at the numbers.  The basic figures for the boxes that were ticked in response to the list of questions that were put together.

This was very important to examine in order to have the black and white statistics showing, without emotion, the views of the profession.  The blunt results were quite conclusive.

In this blog I wanted to look at the more personal comments that were outlined in the detailed feedback.

Poor reflection of ability

I think many teachers would potentially be willing to undertake the additional working pressures, and even perhaps be willing to accept the negative impacts on children, if these tests were clearly providing new and useful information that could not be secured in other ways.  However, as the below comments from teachers responding to the survey suggest, practitioners have not been convinced that this policy is being either informative nor offers the prospect of better attainment levels in future.  In many cases teachers felt that the tests were a poor reflection of the day-to-day abilities of the pupils they have come to know.

“The results of some pupils bear no resemblance to their true ability and when they receive the results, their confidence in their own abilities will take a huge knock just as they embark on their time in secondary education. A total disgrace.”

“A very negative experience for the pupils. A waste of time and effort and does not give a true assessment of pupils ability.”

“The tests reflect nothing about pupil ability but are rather made to make the government feel as though they are doing something to ‘better’ the situation.”

“They do not give a true reflection of a child’s ability, just their ability to sit a test!”

“I do not understand how Welsh Government think a generic test can assess all pupils’ ability. There is no understanding of the differentiated nature of teaching pupils at Key Stage 3 and the fact that these tests seem to be a “one size fits all” approach.”

“Testing does not improve standards; good teaching does.”

Foundation Phase

I wrote a recent article on the perception that the Welsh Government is faltering on its commitment to the Foundation Phase and it was noticeable that this was the key educational fear that came through time and time again when reading the comments.  There is a clear view within the profession that the ethos of the early years approach we have so proudly promoted in the past approach is not compatible with standardised testing.  Some samples of the responses include:

“The format of the tests goes against the ethos and teaching methods of the Foundation phase and early ks2.”

“These tests are inappropriate for children in Year 2. They are at odds with the Foundation Phase philosophy and they put young children in a very stressful situation.”

“I work with small targeted groups of low attainment pupils in Foundation Phase. Having made considerable inroads this year with their reading, writing and numeracy skills the tests completely undermined their confidence.”

“As the philosophy of the foundation Phase is learning through exploring and working collaboratively alongside other pupils, the test situation is really alien to their whole foundation experience as they are being required to work alone with no support and to put answers on paper that they have had no previous training for. Consistency of approach is needed between those who set the requirements for staff to deliver daily education and those who set the test papers/make the decision to set tests.”

“Ridiculous to expect yr2 pupils who are used to foundation phase teaching and learning, to take part in tests.”

“The test for the foundation phase is out of sync with the teaching strategies that are linked with foundation phase teaching. I felt that a years effort of working hard to develop children educationally but also emotionally had gone down the pan. Depressing years ahead.”

“We have had an opportunity to do something new in Wales and yet we are undermining radical initiatives such as the Foundation Phase with policies that risk turning the whole country into a large exam factory.”

“These tests totally contradict foundation phase style if learning – please make up your mind government!”

“As more and more pupils arrive in school without basic skills and knowledge all the hard work educators have carried out during their first years in school following the foundation phase ethos has been un-done during the 5 days allocated for the tests – leaving pupils and educators feeling useless and deflated if not successful.”


The most disturbing comments relate to the concerns that teachers have raised about the impact on pupil well-being as a result of the testing regime.  Stress and anxiety from pupils were a key problem as well as the damage it has done to self-esteem and confidence.  Comments like the below exemplified this:”

“I believe the tests demoralise and dishearten pupils, particularly those of lower ability. We spend all year building pupils confidence only for it to be knocked by making them sit tests that are not differentiated in any way for the less able pupils.”

“Having made considerable inroads this year with their reading, writing and numeracy skills the tests completely undermined their confidence. It is time politicians realised that one paper does NOT fit all.”

“This has destroyed the confidence of children that we have spent a lot of time building up and encouraging.”

“The children are stressed and have had their confidence knocked. One of my year four boys is working at a year 2 level. After sitting the literacy test for y4/5 he has refused to even try to read. All our hard work undone in one stupid test.”

“We have worked hard all year to increase confidence and self-esteem and the tests have set those children back a long way.”

“Children should not be crying going to school just because of tests.”

“I had children in class crying during the tests because they were not at the right level for them. While the government is insisting (rightly) that all lessons are differentiated appropriately for each individual to access the learning, why were they all sitting the same test?”

“Very concerned that some of my and 7-year-old pupils were so worried about the tests that they cried, did not want to come to school and one even stopped eating!!”

“Several of the children were distressed and some were reluctant to come to school.”

It is not hard to see from this small sample of the extensive feedback that was provided that these tests cause strong feelings within the sector.  We can but hope that the views are taken on board in advance of next years testing.



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