Too many exams and increasing pressure on results are blamed for causing mental health and self-esteem issues in British schools according to a recent survey. In Britain, children as young as four and five are being tested on phonics when most European countries haven’t even started formal schooling! So why is there a need for constant testing in England?
Tests, exams and coursework have been used to measure progress for decades however according to The NUT’s report, constant testing is being blamed for a higher number of pupils developing anorexia, mental health issues and a rise in self-harm cases. The NUT report asked 8,000 teachers about the impact that exams had on their pupils, and the findings showed unprecedented levels of school related anxiety among primary and secondary students.
Lucy Russell from Young Minds said the findings were “very concerning as they show that both pupils and teachers are under a lot of pressure to achieve results in a pressure cooker, exam factory environment”. The report displayed that with such a focus on results and league tables, pupil-teacher relationships are being damaged, with one junior school teacher saying “I am in danger of seeing them more in terms of what colour they are in my ‘pupils list’ rather than seeing them as individuals, for example are they red (below expectation), green (above expectation) or purple (pupils premium)”.
76% of primary teachers and 94% of secondary teachers who responded to the NUT survey agreed that pupils were affected by stress-related conditions during exam periods. One teacher said “you just see them sat there, a 10-or-11-year old kid in complete meltdown”.
Mr Courtney continued to say that “the whole culture of a school has become geared towards meeting government targets and Ofsted expectations. As this report shows schools are on the verge of becoming exam factories”. With the increasing amount of exams and testing in school, teachers are now ‘teaching the test’ rather than providing a broader education. Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the NUT stated “teachers at the sharp end are saying this loud and clear, if it isn’t relevant to a test then it should not be seen as a priority”. So are tests and exams limiting children’s learning?
A Department for Education spokesman has however backed the focus on exams and testing stating that “Part of our commitment to social justice is the determination to ensure everybody is given an education that allows them to realise their potential”. The same spokesman also said that “young children can have the best grades possible but if they can’t cope or deal with the harsh realities of modern life [referring to stress induced by exams] then the education system is failing them”.
But should children be shown these realities so young or, will failure just lead to demotivation in students? Does the stress being put on such young shoulders really lead to mental health issues and self-harming? If exams have the potential to damage the next generation what is the answer? What do you think? Have your say…