Standardised testing in primary schools

 

A chara, – I read with interest your front-page article “Primary tests causing ‘stress and anxiety’” (News, May 21st).

Standardised tests are a useful tool for primary schools. They help inform teachers’ long-term planning, track general progress and guide us in identifying pupils who need extra support. They do not in themselves cause stress and anxiety; rather it is how we report and use the results that does.

All primary schools since 2011, following instruction from the Department of Education and Skills, are obliged to include standardised test results on their annual report cards, often sent home at the end of the year.

This in many cases leads to results being shared with children as young as seven, which can lead to ill-informed and inappropriate comparisons being made with others, thereby encouraging unhealthy competition and inevitably leading to increased levels of stress and anxiety.

I have always contended that test results should only be shared with parents in an informed manner through parent teacher meetings. It is not advisable that they ever be shared with children.

As a society we increasingly define success by exam results. Secondary schools persist in presenting awards to their high achievers in spite of a purported increased emphasis on wellbeing. Photographs from award ceremonies are often published in newspapers both local and national, even in The Irish Times.

What sort of message does this send to the 99 per cent of students who fail to reach such august heights?

We must refocus what we as a society want for our next generation.

Children should be encouraged to do their best and embrace the challenge. Standardised tests in primary schools inform only a very small part of what we do, and should therefore be seen in that context.

Children receiving grinds in preparation for standardised tests, as your article alludes to, would be more usefully employed outside climbing a tree. – Is mise,

RONAN

MacNAMARA,

Principal,

St Kilian’s National

School,

Mullagh,

Co Cavan.