With exam season well under way, there has been a lot of negative press lately about the impact of testing on children’s mental health. This seems to have escalated with the new government plans for every pupil in England to take an on-screen times table test before leaving primary school.
In a recent Schoolzone survey, just under half (48%) of primary teachers told us that they disagreed with the introduction of these computer-based multiplication tests. However, it seemed to be the format of the tests which was a particular cause for concern.
65% of those answering the survey didn’t think that the on-screen format would be suitable for all pupils, particularly those with special educational needs, such as processing, visual or attention difficulties. They raised concerns such as:
- Can you adjust the speed of questioning?
- Will the questions be staged / progressive?
- Will it be visual and auditory, or can the children choose?
- Will it be black text on white or changeable for those with perceptual difficulties such as Irlen Syndrome?
Clearly, it is essential that the computer-based tests are flexible enough to accommodate the needs and learning preferences of all children; including those with SEN or EAL, and that currently teachers are unconvinced they deliver on this.
There were also concerns raised about the sheer volume of testing, and whether young children (both with and without SEN) were suitably equipped at the age of 11 with the skills to cope with ‘exam anxiety’.
The government seems set on raising standards through increased assessment and accountability. However, there are some clear questions being asked from the teaching population about the impact of this “high stakes” testing regime: Are we over-testing children? Are they even useful for the child? And can pupils with SEN access the tests adequately to give them the best chance at success?