School tests causing pupil stress, teachers' survey finds

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Media captionOwen Hathway, NUT Wales policy officer, said he had heard reports of children not eating or even soiling themselves because of the levels of stress

Annual school tests for children aged seven to 14 are causing so much stress some pupils are refusing to go to school, a survey of teachers claimed.

Members of the union NUT Cymru said the reading and maths tests put too much pressure on children too young, with one child even stopping eating.

They also raised concerns it affected pupil morale and said the tests had little impact on attainment.

The Welsh government said they were fundamental for raising standards.

The tests were brought in last year in a bid to improve performance after Wales fell behind the rest of the UK in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

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Media captionProf David Reynolds, an education expert, said the information from the tests is important

But teachers who took part in the survey claim they "destroyed pupils' confidence", "caused major stress", and one said they caused a child to stop eating.

Another wrote: "When the tests were completed I have never seen children's morale so low. It had such an impact on me I reported it to the head.

"Too much pressure, too young, the government do not care about little Billy or little Lucy, they have simply become data. What a shame."

NUT Cymru said the results echoed responses from 2013. The survey found:

  • 96% of teachers do not think the tests have been a positive experience for pupils
  • 70% say they are not consistent with the curriculum
  • 90% do not believe they provided new information about pupils
  • 82% said workload was up as a result of the tests
  • 87% do not believe they will lead to improved pupil attainment
  • 87% said the tests have impacted negatively on pupil stress levels

Owen Hathway, NUT Wales policy officer, said the feedback was "very concerning" and showed teachers were not convinced with the current system.

"Teachers have seen the tests have a negative impact on pupil engagement and have also seen complications with parents as a result of this initiative," said Mr Hathway.

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Image caption The Welsh government said the tests were the only way to ensure pupils made regular progress

"Some of the more direct feedback is difficult to read with teachers left exhausted by the impact these tests are having on pupil wellbeing."

The union has sent the responses to Education Minister Huw Lewis urging him to examine the nature and delivery of the tests.

A survey by teaching union UCAC also raised similar concerns and said the tests undermined pupil confidence.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "The tests and the data they provide are fundamental to raising standards in Wales and schools can use the diagnostic information from the tests to identify learners' strengths and areas for development.

"This means that a school can intervene if a pupil is falling behind, and also stretch the more able pupils."

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