Over the weekend, my son was quiet and withdrawn - a key indicator that he’s nervous or worried about something. He’s a sensitive boy who will always internalise any concern.
I questioned him multiple times about what was on his mind and finally got to the answer – he was nervous about a maths exam on Monday. He recently turned six!
It was the first I had heard of it. I was shocked about the concept and logic of my 6-year-old and others going through the process of exams.
Living in the UK with my British husband, it seemed completely absurd when, if we were based in my native country Australia, he’d be spending a large part of his day doing activities outside.
The defence behind compulsory exams for 6-year-olds is to be get them ready for their official SATs (Standard Assessment Testing) in Year 2 - apoint that evoked the question – then why not leave it to Year 2? Obviously, the British Government doesn’t think they should go through the process in year 1 or they would start them then.
It became apparent that reasoning was more about competition between schools in the area and the need to have the best results for ‘reputation’.
A grown-up problem and agenda, that’s having a negative effect on children.
I spoke with a friend about it my concerns, as I felt I was the only one.
She’d had a similar experience with her son to me and said another child had ‘wet’ his pants after getting nervous. He was new to the school and was having difficulty fitting in. Surely, the exam process added a level of pressure that did nothing but add to his nervousness, and was nothing but destructive, when he needed support to make friends and settle into a new environment.
Another child had been studying for it each day after school after her mother knew it would be happening, and had been busy downloading practice sheets for her to practice on as she wanted her daughter to be the ‘best’. That is why she hadn’t attended sports training or plays. Never mind being a part of a team and not letting your teammates down. The focus needed to be on individual academic success.
They are five and six. Not in high school.
The whole experience has left a bad taste in my mouth and made me long for a return to my home Australia – where, yes, the school system isn’t perfect. But the balance between learning and developing socially appears to be much better than the so-called mother country.
There seems to be little to no benefit for the children from my experience, but I may be completely missing the point of why it needs to occur.
I would love to hear other mums’ experiences of their children’s exams and testing.
* Sarah asked for her full name to be withheld to protect the privacy of those referenced.