Why I’m keeping my children home as a protest on May 3rd

Penny and her family

Penny and her family

Penny Alexander is a former educational consultant, teacher and head of department in secondary school, she has two children aged 7 and 9 and blogs about family lifestyle and travel at parentshaped.co.uk, wayfair.co.uk/aresidence and spaceinyourcase.com. Here she shares her views on the upcoming May 3rd strikes and how supporters can get involved.

What are the May 3rd strikes all about?

“The Kids Strike on May 3rd was set up by an anonymous group of Year 2 parents Let Our Kids Be Kids, initially to make a stand against the Year 2 SATS (Standard Attainment Tests). But tens of thousands of parents have joined to make a stand about the Year 2, the Year 6 SATS and the decision to make all schools into academies. Like many parents Let Our Kids Be Kids say they are ‘sick of whinging in the school yard about the state of things and think it’s time to make a stand.’ On Tuesday 3rd May, they invite parents ‘to join thousands of other parents who feel the same – that their kids are over tested, over worked and in a school system that places more importance of test results and league tables than children’s happiness and joy of learning.’

All over the UK people are organising a day of fun learning for their children, you can check the map to see if there is anything organised near you, join up with school friends to organise your own day, or simply tailor a day around what your child has been missing out on, I know mine want a day of art, craft and outdoor creative play”.

Why are you supportive of the strikes?

“As a teacher, I witnessed the pressures government changes put on the education system. I have watched that intensify greatly since I guiltily joined the hoards leaving the profession, to have my own children and become a writer instead. 4 in 10 new teachers quit within a year, 58% are thinking of leaving in the next two years and 79% of schools are struggling to retain teachers*. It’s an amazing job, but the conditions and curriculum have become unbearable, successive governments have made changes without listening to the teaching profession.

education child's pencil and paperPrimary schools are judged upon their results in years 2 and 6, which puts huge strain on schools, teachers and children to perform in tests so they can do well in league tables. This leads to schools teaching children to pass tests. Many experts, teachers, heads, unions, parents feel that these tests are putting unfair strain on young people, and that ‘teaching to test’ does not give them the true breadth of education they deserve. Play is being pushed out by punctuation, grammar is replacing games and deeper thinking about the world is being replaced by rote learning.

Interestingly secondary school consultants have noticed that primaries are reporting improved reading, while secondaries are experiencing decreases in reading ability of new arrivals**. It seems that SATS are distorting what children are actually capable of because they have been taught to pass a test.

There are examples of successful alternatives, in Finland for example – the 6th highest performing country in the world, and highest performing in Europe*** – children spend less time in school, do less homework, play more and are happier and more successful as a result. The UK is still only 20th in this list. I think we could learn a lot from the highest achiever of our European counterparts.

Teachers can assess children without the need for tests, which would leave more room in the curriculum for play and much deeper learning.

Now my children are in primary school I can see the gaps between how they like to learn at home and at school widening, it’s becoming harder and harder to encourage them to take pleasure in things they associate with school, like reading. They complain about not having enough playtime and not doing enough art or outdoor activity. Yet, they go to outstanding schools where the staff are fantastic and go out of the way to make sure they don’t feel SATS pressure, but it’s impossible to avoid when it takes over the curriculum so much.

For many parents of children with special needs, or those who learn in different ways to the leanings of the curriculum, school is becoming an incredibly frustrating place. But across the country there are reports of children of ALL abilities experiencing stress, frustration and exhaustion. Is this what primary school should be about?

I would encourage even those parents whose children appear to be sailing through their SATs year to look at the evidence, kids who are eager to please may seem fine, but they may still be missing out on a fully rounded education. That’s what our teachers are telling us. It is time we listened and trusted the experts, the professionals on this, there is a much richer alternative out there.

Teachers on the whole welcome parents taking action, that’s what convinced me to join the strike. Teachers have pushed and pushed for change, now parents need to step up and help be the voice of change.”

Where can parents go to find out more?

All the information you need including letters to give schools to explain your child’s absence and information on how absence will be recorded by schools is here: https://letthekidsbekids.wordpress.com and here https://letthekidsbekids.wordpress.com/faqs/

Are there other ways to support the strikes if you feel unable to take your children out if school?

Yes, sign the petition, share this post and details of the strike on social media using #KidsStrike3rdMay

Show your support to those who are striking, send a letter to your child’s school, to Nicky Morgan Education Secretary, there are lots more ways to help here: https://letthekidsbekids.wordpress.com

To read more posts from parent bloggers on all aspects of education, see the Education Round-up edited by Alice Langley.

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About Alice Langley

Alice Langley is travel obsessed mother of two who describes herself as a planner, schemer, and endless dreamer. After leaving her teaching job to raise a family, Alice rediscovered her love of writing and starting blogging in 2011. She now has a wonderful new career as freelance writer and community manager and can be found sharing her travels over at projectwanderlust.co.uk and @imalicelangley

1 Comment

  1. 02 May 2016 / 20:06

    i think this protest day is brilliant! one of my children adores tests and cried last year when he was off sick on on of his yr 6 sats days. And i have another who really doesn’t like tests and it puts him off enjoying his learning and being at school. We witnessed first hand how well kids can do having more freedom in their learning and learning in creative and fun ways when we homeschooled for three years – you’ll often hear me say it was the best three years of our lives. I don’t feel that they missed out on anything during that time and i just wish schools would learn to actually put children first rather than meeting their targets. I know there are many wonderful teachers out there so i feel very highly of them but there is something wrong in the system if these sats tests are becoming such a high priority for schools over and above meeting the needs of children.