I felt it was important for the children to understand, that many of the demands we make of them aren't necessarily coming from us. Some will say this was too heavy, but they had some interesting and extremely valid thoughts; I'd recommend you bring up the subject with the older children in your own school. I was incredibly impressed with how mature their ideas were regarding tests; why we take them, the pros and cons, etc. In many cases, their opinions were very profound. It also enabled them to put some of the difficulties they will face, with the system, into perspective against their ambitious futures because, ultimately, the assessment system means nothing to them at this point in their life.
Teaching is acting; we must make things appear to be of higher importance in the mind of a child. Take Statutory Assessments, for example. Depending on your angle, I believe you have 2 options:
- A great teacher, in my opinion, TRANSLATES the intentions of those higher in power, to mean something to benefit the children in the long term, empowering them for later life. Assessments set by above are broadly unavoidable, so let's use them in as positive a way as possible; fit the exam to the child, life continues after the test.
- A different teacher, in my opinion, DISSEMINATES the exact same information as those in higher power, to fool children into succeeding in the short term for their own professional gain. Assessments set by above are broadly unavoidable, so let's abandon anything outside of them and train you to pass; fit the child to the exam, this test IS your life.
In a sense, it's similar to AT1 and AT2 in Religious Education; Learning about... and Learning from...
A great teacher will help the children learn FROM their experiences of preparing for assessments. By this, I mean they will promote the behaviours in preparing for a test, the attitudes while taking the test, and the reaction when you hear the result.
A different teacher will educate the children ABOUT taking the assessments. By this, I mean they will only cover topics needed for the test (because why would you need to know anything else?), coach you to answer the different types of question required in the test, and encourage you to judge yourself based upon the result, as if this test has defined you.
Not too long ago, and even still now (as some refuse to accept the glorious disappearance of meaninglessly inflated 'levels'), I would cringe when hearing children boast about their grade when, quite simply, you would look across the classroom at the child who had received a much lower result, but put in far more effort leading to great improvement! Equally, you would hear of the person barking at their class to include various vocabulary, because someone had considered it to be "a Level 5 word" (what even IS that!?!) Even more heart-breaking was the experienced teacher calling out their children because they were "still only a 2B!"
Now, there's no denying that qualifications can impact your future, and that children experience various styles of assessment throughout their primary career, but I firmly believe these should be used as something to learn FROM, rather than ABOUT; if they have to do them, make them as useful as possible. Life, after all, is full of tests.
As well as a tool for tailoring holistic learning, a great teacher, in my opinion, will use statutory tests, in-house assessments, etc, for the following:
- Teach the children the importance of focussing on a task. Why? Because although now it's just a spelling test, in several years it will be your driving test.
- Show the children the importance of revision. Why? Because although you keep re-reading the same grammar terms to prepare for that SPaG test, in the future those definitions are replaced by your notecards for that important meeting.
- Encourage the children not to give up. Why? Because although it's your times tables at the moment, in many years it's the sort of stamina you'll need when applying for a mortgage.
- Promote ambition and performing to your potential. Why? Because although it's just a Maths assessment at age 10, there are lots of other applicants for that job you want.
- Model failing, making mistakes and picking yourself up. Why? Because although it's 'not the score you were hoping for', later it's the promotion you just missed out on.
- Explain the need for concentration, even when you're not interested. Why? Because although you owe 5 minutes of your playtime for talking in the lesson, later that's 5 minutes less with your own family because you hadn't knuckled down in the office.
- Praise good time management. Why? Because although that kid called you a swot for working hard in the lesson and getting all of your playtime, later it's that incredible day you spent with your family because you worked towards the company targets, earning yourself both time and money.
- Tell them to make the most of their working day and cherish their down time as a reward for hard work. Why? Because although it's a 15 minute playtime, where childhood is made, later it's the holiday you missed out on, where family memories are made.
Finally, demonstrate the value of improvement. Why? Because you might feel your 50% result wasn't good enough, compared to the person who gets a consistent 74% every time. But the fact you used to get zero, and continued to put in the effort, to achieve your ever-increasing personal best, is far more important. In the same way that using the lessons above, and applying yourself consistently, will launch you into a life of varied fulfilment, respect from the right characters and an internal sense of self-worth, knowing you worked hard to get you to whatever dream you had when that different teacher told you "your result isn't good enough".
The test you're about to take doesn't mean much; but your education is everything. Learn FROM the process, not ABOUT the process.