Lancaster headteacher: ‘Schools are being set up to fail’

Parents and children from primary schools in Lancaster, who are planning to protest against SATs tests on May 3.
Parents and children from primary schools in Lancaster, who are planning to protest against SATs tests on May 3.

Parents, teachers and headteachers are preparing to take a stand against new exams described as “setting schools up to fail”.

Many parents across the district have said they will not be sending their children to school on Tuesday May 3 as a protest against new SATs tests and the forced “academisation” of schools.

Hundreds of families are due to attend a Picnic in the Park at Williamson Park between 11am and 3pm, where there will be education workshops and a show of solidarity for teachers, who say the new SATs tests are “unrealistic” and carry “ridiculous expectations” for children.

A group of headteachers will also be heading down to London on Wednesday May 4 to lobby the government.

They will set up a stall outside the House of Commons and ask members of the public to try out some of the new SATs papers, and will also ask to speak to Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris, who has so far declined a meeting.

Catherine Armistead, headteacher at Skerton St Luke’s Primary School in Lancaster said: “This is about setting schools up to fail, so they can be forced into academisation, which is ultimately heading towards privatisation.Since January we’ve had about 14 different emails with changes on how the assessments will happen. It’s been a drip feed of information and it’s never been clear.

“It’s been very difficult to formulate an argument when we’re not sure what the whole picture is, and it feels like it’s been deliberate so we’ve not had chance to do anything about it. This has resulted in us not being able to be clear with the children either. But now we are and I’ve been shocked by the growing anger of parents.”

The new SATs exams mean children as young as six are now being tested on material such as punctuation, times tables and fractions - two years earlier than before.

But last week, the government was forced to cancel its controversial new spelling and grammar test after it was accidentally put online by officials. Half a million seven-year-olds in England had been due to take the tests next month.

The protest on May 3 is part of a campaign launched by Let Our Kids Be Kids, set up by a group of parents with children in year 2, who are against placing extra exam pressures on primary children. Some Lancaster district schools have also asked pupils to write their own pieces on how they feel about the new SATs tests.

Mrs Armistead added: “There’s nothing wrong with tests in themselves, the whole point is to work out exactly where children are, but SATs don’t tell us that.

“Teacher assessments tell us that, and we need to go back to trusting the professionals.

“We don’t need any extra tests with ridiculous expectations. I have high expectations for my own children, but I don’t have unrealistic ones.”

Mrs Armistead also praised the good work done by Lancashire County Council as education authority.

Under draft plans published last month, all England’s state schools must become academies, run by trusts rather than councils, by 2022, but this week education secretary Nicky Morgan said she will consider making it easier for councils to form their own multi-academy trusts.

A public meeting is due to take place tonight, Thursday April 28, at Lancaster Town Hall.