Protest over policies taking teaching ‘to its knees’

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Twelve adults and 24 children took part in a day of protest in Goffs Park to oppose tests for pupils as young as six.

The protest – one of dozens held up and down the country on May 3 – was organised in support of the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign, which called for an end to SATs for Year 2 children, following claims they placed youngsters under too much stress.

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Goffs Park organisers Karen Edwards and Chloe Berrisford – who are both teachers – ensured there was a range of activities including rock climbing, arts and crafts, reading, exploring wildlife and hoola-hooping, to keep the children engaged and learning as they played.

Explaining why they joined the strike, Chloe, who has taught at Northgate, West Green and Milton Mount primary schools, said the protest had been “for the good of our nation’s children and the teaching profession”.

She added: “The education system is in the process of being altered beyond recognition by current and recent government policies.

“The teaching profession is on its knees due to the demands upon it and, because of the massively unrealistic expectations of successive governments, teachers are leaving the profession in droves. For many, the latest version of the national curriculum and this years SATs tests are the final straw.”

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Protestors stressed the day of action was in no way a criticism of the schools or the teachers but was a message to the government from parents “who have had enough – enough of endless testing, enough of teachers not being trusted to teach, enough of an Ofsted-driven, dull, dry curriculum aimed solely at passing SATs”.

Chloe said: “This is a massive issue nationally, teachers study and qualify, some don’t go on to work in schools, and most of those that do leave pretty soon afterwards because it’s an almost impossible job to do well and enjoy at the moment - and has been for some years.”

With thousands of parents and children having taken part in the protest, a spokesman for Let Our Kids Be Kids said, “Today was about standing together to share our belief that the education system in this country is damaging our children. It was about making our voices heard. It was about working together to bring about change.

“We need to see teachers, unions and the government working together with us now to find a way that works. Not just a way to pass tests, but a way that encourages a lifelong love of learning in our children and that develops, through a curriculum rich in a wealth of experiences, the confidence, imagination and passion for learning that will help our children to succeed.”

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Many parents, who were unable to take time off work to join the protest, showed their support for the campaign through letters to their child’s school as well as MPs and Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan.

In addition, more than 49,000 people have signed a petition calling on Mrs Morgan to end SATs for children in Year 2, sending a clear message they wanted children to “enjoy learning for learning’s sake not for Ofsted results or league table figures”.

One parent stated: “My creative, imaginative six-year-old daughter is sat at a desk for hours a day doing what she already calls ‘work’. She is bored. She is losing her love of learning. She is losing the possibility of a creative career in her future. Enough.”

Chloe, who currently works at the University of Brighton as a senior lecturer in early years, added: “I want my daughter to grow up experiencing the joy of learning and discovery, with the knowledge that she has skills and talents across a wide range of interests, that are recognised and valued by teachers who love their jobs, stay at a school for more than one term and are qualified to do the job they are doing.

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“If we don’t stand up for these things they’ll be lost to a system driven by market forces, profitability, competitiveness and social advantage.”

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