Primary school tests widely opposed, study finds

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LONDON, Oct 12 (Reuters) The biggest study into primary education in 40 years said today it had found deep concern about the stress caused to children, parents and teachers by national tests for 7 and 11-year-olds, a key government policy.

The independently-funded Primary Review said there was also widespread criticism that the annual SATs exams distorted the curriculum and stifled pupils' creativity and curiosity.

''For a government which has invested so much in its drive to raise educational standards, there is a battle for hearts and minds to be won,'' said review's director Robin Alexander.

''The evidence from this one strand of the Primary Review's evidence suggests that standards may have been too readily equated with quality, and that it is time to start exploring the difference between them.'' The review, based at Cambridge University, was reporting its findings from 87 meetings with community representatives, employers, religious leaders, parents, governors, heads, teachers and children across England.

It is the first of a planned 32 interim reports.

One parent told the review that the only people to benefit from SATs were estate agents -- house prices can be higher in areas around top-performing primary schools.

Teaching unions said the report supported their long-standing opposition to the national tests, which have been abandoned by devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

''The picture painted by the Primary Review is of primary teachers who ... are bombarded by needless and oppressive accountability measures such as tests, targets and tables,'' said National Union of Teachers General Secretary Steve Sinnott.

But the government defended the exams, which it says help boost standards in schools.

''The government does not share the view that children are over-tested,'' said the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

''Tests help parents and teachers monitor the progress of children and ensure they get the help they need.

''Less than 0.14 per cent of teaching time for 7 to 11-year-olds is spent on national tests.

''Teachers are well versed in ensuring children know what to expect and can cope well with tests.'' REUTERS NY RAI0919

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