U.K. Setting Children up for Failure*
By Sarah Cassidy
Children as young as 10 worry that doing badly in their school SATs tests could set them up for failure in their lives, new research shows.
More than half of pupils – 55% – said they were worried that failing to achieve the required standard would damage their chances of success in the future, in a poll of more than 1,000 children who took their Key Stage Two SATs exams last year aged 11.
Six out of 10 children claimed they had been told by teachers that SATs were important for the school league tables, while 68% admitted feeling pressured at exam time.
Meanwhile, one in five parents reported that their child had been too nervous to eat before the exams with one in eight saying their offspring had refused food because of the tests, according to a separate poll of more than 1,000 parents of children who took their Year Six SATs last year. Seventy-four per cent of parents said their children were under more exam pressure than they were at a similar age.
Children reported not being able to concentrate due to being nervous (20%), being unable to eat because of nerves (12%) and feeling hungry due to skipping a meal (14%).
Of the children surveyed, 22% reported losing sleep during their SATs, rising to 59% among children who admitted skipping breakfast.
John Coe, of the National Association for Primary Education, said:
“A decent breakfast should set children up for success in their exams, and eating with friends at a breakfast club is a happy way of meeting the challenge to come.”
Last month a study for the National Union of Teachers found that some pupils are self-harming and developing eating disorders because of the “exam factory” conditions they face at school. Merryn Hutchings, an emeritus professor from London Metropolitan University, said that pressures were causing them to become “anxious, stressed and disaffected”.
Dr Claire Halsey, a child psychologist, said:
“It’s troubling that children are expressing so many worries about their exams. It’s natural to experience some pressure to perform before any test, but these results show that SATs have become more than a little nerve-racking.
“Fortunately there are practical things parents and schools can do to help such as creating a calm environment, praising effort rather than results and making sure children sleep and eat well before their tests.”
The study was commissioned by the cereal company Kellogg’s, which is donating 44,500 breakfasts to 300 school breakfast clubs to help children prepare for their SATs.
Pupil stress: in numbers
of pupils were worried exam failure would hurt their future
of pupils said they felt pressured at exam time
of parents said their children were under more pressure than they were at that age
breakfasts Kellogg’s is giving to school breakfast clubs