The Forgotten Pressures of Exams

Testing is a major factor in British schools, with exams starting in primary school and continuing through to leaving age. They put a huge amount of pressure on pupils to perform but are arguably the key factor used to measure a child’s progress through the education system. Along with the extra expectations placed on students and their families, it’s easy to forget that regular exams also place pressure on teachers.

A key education story this week highlighted how intense this pressure can be. Primary tests have been moved back to June after being brought forward last month. This was done after complaints were made by teaching unions about the lack of time to prepare and submit accurate reports on the writing standards of their pupils.

This year, not only were the deadlines moved but higher standards were also required. A teacher preparing pupils for exams will have to go through a large amount of work to get them up to standard. The build up to exams often involves mock tests and short assessments for example, all of which have to be marked and then more work has to be done to improve upon these results. This doesn’t take into account the fact that at SAT level, teachers will be responsible for marking assessments and then uploading the data. This all adds to the pressure many teachers feel at this time of year.

Performance related pay demonstrates the further pressures on teachers to ensure pupils are achieving the highest possible results. Basing pay on how pupils perform in tests is a timely reminder about the importance that end of year testing has in our school system. But is this a good thing? Most teachers want their pupils to achieve the best possible results and pay has been shown not to be a factor in teacher motivation. It only creates an uncertainty for teachers who are already severely undervalued.

Testing is an important part of the education system as it provides parents a guide as to how their children are progressing. With this emphasis on testing, there needs to be close ties between the parents and the schools – do you agree that exams place pressure on teachers as much as kids? Would you like your school to do more to support teachers or do you think teachers receive as much support as needed, leading to better performing children? Let us know on our social media!

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