I was recently sent the results of a survey done by my employers, Southend-On-Sea Borough Council, which involved over 3,300 children in schools in our borough. The survey was called “Your Say” . It was a particularly interesting survey because it brought out results about the children’s attitudes to a number of issues, for instance, bullying, their bodies and their feelings about school.
The section that really interested me was the section called Personal and Social and was a series of results relating to the question “which of these do you often worry about?” (P.23 of the survey PDF Download).The worries were: Exams and Tests, The Way I look, school work problems, problems with friends, family problems, money problems, health problems, bullying, career problems, puberty and growing up, Being gay, lesbian or bisexual / or being different to other people or none of these.
The result that I think is most interesting was that Exams and Tests were seen by both Primary (Elementary) and Secondary students as the number one worry and it was the number one worry by a long way (24% overall as against “The Way I look” which came second with 11% overall).
The fact that exams and tests were seen as a worry by so many students only goes to show how these things are affecting our children. I have railed in the past about the fact that no society can condone a situation where children feel under pressure and get sick because of exams and tests…indeed some of them actually take their own lives!
For what? For these things to be the be-all and end-all of their existence on this planet? For Governments to use the children as a means to punish what they see as their bad teachers. It all seems so worthless and the results of the Southend survey could probably be replicated all over my country and probably in many countries abroad.
It should be seen as a warning sign for all administrators and politicians. There needs to be a better way to assess our children’s progress, that allows them to express what they know and does not put a heavy pressure on revision and memorisation. I am in favour of portfolios of progress that can be regularly tested but not in a hothouse environment and not with the implications that failure means doom.
I would hope that a future survey would not see exams and tests at the top of children’s worries. There will still be worries, because they are human and they will have existential cares like the rest of us…. but not the heavy hand that we have imposed upon them with the test and exam culture that they have to study under at present every day of their school lives.
Postcript: Please note earlier versions of this post had the figure of 33,000 for the survey and not 3,300 which was the actual size of the survey. Apologies if this was misleading in any way.