How does anybody feel about more primary tests?

(50 Posts)
learnandsay Tue 11-Dec-12 09:36:11

Is the education minister Liz Truss correct when she says that the slip in maths and science is linked to the removal of compulsory tests for 11 year olds? Higher up in the article it says that the science test is for 10 year olds. So I can't quite see how testing at age 11 would fix it.

Liz Truss is almost as stupid as that complete fuckwit gove. The pair of them should not have been let near the education department.

All testing like this does is ensures that schools teach to the test. It's all to do with manipulating stats and bugger all to do with learning anything.

APMF Tue 11-Dec-12 11:33:36

At his primary school my bright DS was left to coast because the teacher was busy getting the other kids to KS 4 in Yr 6. Testing and league tables encourages this kind of approach to teaching.

But what is the alternative? As a person who attended a number of crap schools, relying on HMs to police themselves is not an option.

learnandsay Tue 11-Dec-12 11:43:36

The alternative is that the parent can boost the child's education at home and the teacher, instead of letting the able child coast, can assist the parent to boost.

crazygracieuk Tue 11-Dec-12 12:36:22

I think that science teaching is very poor in primaries.
I don't know if it's because of the national curriculum, teachers not knowing the subject or something else but my children have not learned anything in science. The expectations seem very low. My children knew stuff like plants soak up water through the roots in nursery and would happily learn more interesting/advanced stuff. They are not g&t pr anything, just curious. I know that someone will point out that not all kids will have parents who can/will explain basic science but if the government want to create world class scientists then they need to bring everyone up and not bring the highest down to meet the bottom.

My children have been suitably stretched in maths and literacy. I'm thinking of L4 ish literacy here but I don't think that writing in different styles is as important as basics like grammar, punctuation and spelling but it's a minor niggle really unlike the science issue which is a much bigger one.

crazygracieuk Tue 11-Dec-12 12:39:57

More tests is not the answer. Testing could affect the league tables and statistics like that but is not how you create the next great scientists.

learnandsay Tue 11-Dec-12 12:54:09

I don't think there was any science in the primary school curriculum when I was at school. But because we lived in rural Wales and we all came from farms I don't suppose it mattered that much.

My four year old loves planting fruit and veg and watering it. She also loves watching Dr Ranj on cbeebies. I think her interests in those things could be leveraged somewhat. I saw an animation on the bbc website in the children's science area which pushes a cartoon buggy along a railway track. The buggy can be pushed hard or softly and then there's a quiz about infant level physics. I'm not sure about other people's children but my daughter doesn't show any interest in infant level physics, so why would anyone try to teach it to her? I love the Royal Institution Christmas lectures. But I wouldn't expect my daughter to want to become a physicist because she'd seen two gloves in shoe boxes in the institution's explanation of quantum physics. I'm all for showing children all manner of things. But showing them things and trying to get them to learn them are different things.

Part of it is that a significant number of primary teachers don't know much about science at all.

In Y4, DS1 had ludicrous homework (in the solids, liquids and gases unit) asking whether it would be possible to drill to the centre of the earth. According to his teacher, the answer was 'no' because part of the earth's crust is a liquid. Bangs head on desk. I tried to explain that simply being a liquid is no problem for drilling (the liquid in the North Sea doesn't stop them drilling for oil and gas, does it?); it's the temperatures and pressures (and the huge distances involved wouldn't help).

I was annoyed because DS1 (who had been taught nothing of any consequence about the geology of the earth, and nothing at all about pressures or temperatures in the earth's core) had been marked wrong for a 'nonsensical' answer of 'yes, if you get a big enough drill' and been told total nonsense was the 'correct' answer. Given all he knew was that the earth was made up of solid parts and liquid parts (and nothing about the temperatures or pressures that produces these differen states), his answer was more blood sensible than the right one.

The blank look on the teachers's face when I tried to explain this said it all. All the physical geographers I spoke to about this thought it was hilarious. But it's hardly a solid grounding in science is it?

Also, infant level physics is stuff like sand and water play. You learn loads about the physical properties of materials (and how they interact with other materials) by pouring and piling and sieving and stuff like that. Same can be said for running cars down ramps, or building with blocks. Just because it doesn't involve equations and formulae, doesn't mean it isn't physics.

learnandsay Tue 11-Dec-12 13:49:17

I'm trying to think of any instances where my daughter has volunteered to do anything like that. By the same token sliding down a slide, swinging and twirling around on a roundabout involve physics.

Actually, the explanation of why we don't slide down when a toddler is sitting at the foot of the slide I'd have thought would be a much more relevant and well remembered lesson in force than an animation of a buggy on a railway track.

On children's TV my daughter saw something about how oil was created millions of years ago when animals and plants fell into the sea. Her natural curiosity made her ask why the materials had to fall into the sea. And I told her that though the sea wasn't necessary they'd have had to end up somewhere where they could be preserved for millions of years, like a swamp. And then she asked what I thought was another good question which was where are the seas which the animals and plants fell into? All great and typical children's questions. But I'm sure nobody expects these children to remember anything about geology. They're just asking childish questions. I'm sure it's in one ear and out the other. But that's growing up. That's all natural and perfectly normal.

EdithWeston Tue 11-Dec-12 14:00:48

These tables aren't based on SATS, but on a separate test used in all participating countries. It's not taken by every school, but on a representative sample. This sort of testing for international tables isn't new. I did one as a pupil in the 1970s.

Learning about physics does start with stuff like learning that you slide down a slide rather than up it. Or at least, it takes very little effort to go down, but you have to put in a lot of effort to slide up one. Then, as you go through school, you learn to use the tools/concepts we more easily associate with physics to understand this. So, yes, sliding down the slide at the park does teach about physics - because physics is just a way of understanding how the world works. Without this kind of background knowledge and experience it's an awful lot harder to learn about forces and such like.

IWipeArses Tue 11-Dec-12 14:20:15

OP, so there's no point answering a child's question then? Or teaching them anything because they won't remember it? hmm

ReallyTired Tue 11-Dec-12 14:25:16

In my experience primary school science is reasonably well taught. Where I think children come to a grinding halt is lack of practical experience. My son's teacher has worked hard to make her science lessons interesting.

crazygracieuk Tue 11-Dec-12 14:54:00

YY- practical experience makes science much more interesting. My children (sons and daughter) have loved going on mini beast hunts, growing mould, melting, mixing...

At the start of the summer holidays I actually asked for suggestions for books with experiments and they went down a storm- particularly with ds2 who was about to go into Y2 and had missed the play component of Reception.

Learnandsay- Science in rural Wales- I would have thought it was perfect for a Forest School. Hope the children these days are benefitting.

mrz Tue 11-Dec-12 17:13:36

It's a bit worrying when an education minister isn't aware that 11 year olds still have compulsory tests in maths and science hmm (although only a sample of schools are selected to administer the science tests each year, no school knows if they will be one of those chosen so they can't risk not covering the curriculum ...just in case )

mrz Tue 11-Dec-12 17:18:55

sorry I should correct that as the present government aren't sampling science next year but will be in 2014

BrigitBigKnickers Wed 12-Dec-12 20:33:19

the slip in maths and science is linked to the removal of compulsory tests for 11 year olds

Well she has this wrong as there are still compulsory tests in Maths! hmm A bit worrying if she is an education minister...

Feenie Wed 12-Dec-12 22:10:19

But not at all surprising wink

adeucalione Wed 12-Dec-12 22:25:21

Primary Science is very patchy because primary teachers are generalists...some are clued up and enthusiastic, and some have strengths in other areas (being charitable).

I volunteer in a primary school and have seen children being taught utter rubbish - that the sun is the biggest star in the universe, that the earth is 'thousands of years old', that all rocks are made of sand. Sadly I could go on, but those were the stand-out ones that most 4yo children could refute.

So I would say that any fall in standards could be stopped by recruiting teachers who have a minimum standard of scientific knowledge (not the GCSE Grade C that they have to have now).

ReallyTired Wed 12-Dec-12 22:53:08

My son's present teacher has a very good knowledge of science. She has A-level biology. The difficulty that many teachers have is how to extend the more able child. They don't want to teach what the child is going to learn in year 7 and not sure how to extend sideways.

"So I would say that any fall in standards could be stopped by recruiting teachers who have a minimum standard of scientific knowledge (not the GCSE Grade C that they have to have now). "

I don't think that is realistic or even desirable. There are lots of fab teachers who don't have more than grade C GCSE science. Anyway many BEd courses teach science to patch up any holes in teachers knowledge.

adeucalione Wed 12-Dec-12 23:11:51

Yes I have recent experience of BEd science - it was rubbish.

In one session the tutor said "if I filled a balloon with water and weighed it, and then froze it and weighed it, would the water-filled balloon or the ice-filled balloon be heaviest?'. About half the group said the ice-filled balloon would be heavier. After an explanation, two or three students still thought the ice-filled balloon would be heavier.

Once a year students had a 'science-y' essay to write - generally about teaching methods rather than concepts.

We always get the line 'some of the best teachers...etc etc' but there's nothing endearing about general ignorance, no matter how inspirational and entertaining you are. Either we want children to be taught core subjects by people that know their stuff, or we want to muddle on with some teachers knowing less than a bright Y6.

It's not realistic because if we wanted trainee teachers to have grade As at GCSE, or core subjects to A level, we'd recruit about 2 pa. and staffrooms would be empty, but enthusiastic teaching by knowledgeable people would improve results IMO.

ReallyTired Wed 12-Dec-12 23:23:49

No, having knowledge of science does not make someone a good teacher. I was told by a PGCE tutor that my subject knowledge was excellent. However I know from bitter experience I am not cut out for teaching. I struggled to understand why a child found Physics difficult.

I dropped out of a secondary PGCE course after a term. However subject knowledge was assessed. I had to get a grade A at GCSE in all the three sciences and a grade A in one of those sciences at A-level. The university I went to gave trainee teachers past papers to test subject knowledge.

There are gifted and talented work shops for more able scientists at primary school level. An exceptional year 6 may well know more than a primary school teacher about dinosaurs an area of science. A lot depends on how obcessed keen they are.

adeucalione Wed 12-Dec-12 23:34:45

Knowledge of science doesn't make someone a good teacher, but a good teacher with scientific knowledge is better than a good teacher without it.

However, your teacher training sounds rigorous, let's just make al TTPs like that.

adeucalione Wed 12-Dec-12 23:36:28

Ah just noticed you were secondary.

learnandsay Thu 13-Dec-12 13:03:12

I'm not sure what the qualificationalists (if there could be such a word) would like. There are so many different sciences one couldn't reasonably expect a teacher to have a firm grounding in them all. And then there are so many other subjects. I'd prefer a primary teacher to have some reliable teaching materials and a good book to teach from than to be an expert in seismology or marine biology. I can buy a wall chart from WH Smiths and borrow some great books from the library without knowing a thing about how the tectonic plates were formed or precisely when they were formed, (or even from what.)

lljkk Thu 13-Dec-12 13:21:42

The science education I had in primary was very limited and almost rubbish in comparison to what DC learn now. I was in a G+T programme, btw, in a school abroad in the 1970s.

What sort of things did you British people learn in British school primary science in the 1970s-90s? It must have been fantastic to be so much better than what kids are taught now.

adeucalione Thu 13-Dec-12 13:40:26

You can buy those things LearnandSay, because you presumably have the time, cash and inclination to do so. I'm more concerned about the children being taught the sort of crap I moated up thread who don't have parental resources at their disposal. You don't have to be a science graduate to know that the sun isn't the biggest star in the universe, just have a quite basic level of scientific understanding.

adeucalione Thu 13-Dec-12 13:44:33

And I go into lots of schools, so my examples - of which there are many more - are not isolated. If you are saying that teachers only need a broad, baseline level of knowledge because they can read up on stuff, and always stay one step ahead of the kids, then I would argue that the ones I refer to clearly hadn't done that.

learnandsay Thu 13-Dec-12 13:50:05

Everybody can go to the library. OK, maybe not everybody can afford the poster. And yes, maybe some parents don't care. But doesn't that take us back to the age old point that the children with involved parents have a headstart? I'm pretty sure all children get taught some dreadful rubbish about something at some point. Just as lots of parents have misleading explanations for things, (you were brought by the stork.) I don't know how many children actually grow up believing that babies are brought by storks. Maybe somebody else does know. Personally I believe that reading, discussion, analysing and questioning are all supposed to help us separate the crap from the truth. I don't see why we shouldn't start separating these things before we're four. (My youngest already doesn't believe me when I tell her that she's had enough yoghurt for one day!)

adeucalione Thu 13-Dec-12 14:00:09

So, just to clear, are you saying that it is OK if teachers have a low standard of scientific understanding because children can check out the facts at the library, and that separating crap from truth is a useful skill?

ReallyTired Thu 13-Dec-12 14:35:59

I think the quality of science education in primary schools is far better than in the 80s when I was at primary school. My son's school has excellent science teaching. There is nothing with his present teacher's subject knowledge.

Actually I do not see that teaching science in primary schools is a priority. The most important thing is that a child gets a high standard of literacy and maths.

The only reason for teaching science in primary schools is to make the curriculum more interesting. Science at primary school is a great way of practicing reading comprehension, writing and maths skills.

It is important though that teachers do not sow misconceptions.

learnandsay Thu 13-Dec-12 14:41:47

It's funny actually, I suppose it can be deduced from what I've said that that's what I think. Part of the problem is that I have very firm views that primary education is about reading, writing and rithmatic. I see history, science and whatever else one might have as nice extras. I also have strong views that parents should be firmly in the mix taking their children to the library, to museums, to places of interest (I'm not too sure about art galleries, but I wouldn't necessarily rule them out.) This might necessitate that all children have a certain type of parent. (I don't know.) But it's what I believe. And I think a child with that sort of an involved parent won't grow up thinking frozen water is heavier than water at room temperature, the earth is flat and whatever other nonsense we've had posted by way of example.

BooksandaCuppa Thu 13-Dec-12 16:05:07

Your point that the library is free to all parents is technically correct, learnandsay, but even leaving aside the presumption that many of the parents we're concerned about either can't be bothered or are socially unused to the idea of using libraries, it's also true that in many rural areas a trip to a library is also prohibited by means of lack of transport. Another poster recently quoted figures of bus fares of over ten pounds to get to her nearest library. There are villages near us with no bus services and even those with libraries are tiny with about a hundred non fiction books or fewer. So on balance I think it would be preferable if children were at least only taught correct science facts, however we can make that happen!!

mrz Thu 13-Dec-12 19:04:26

We must be doing something right as we were asked to advise our regional Science Learning Centre and we have been awarded the Primary Science Quality Mark.

learnandsay Thu 13-Dec-12 19:13:17

That's pretty terrific, mrz. Don't suppose your school would be thinking about opening up a virtual wing on mumsnet, would it? (Well, I suppose with you here it already has.)

mrz Thu 13-Dec-12 19:22:05

I don't think my school is all that different from 100s of other primaries around the country.

teacherwith2kids Thu 13-Dec-12 19:23:15

I had my first Science lesson in secondary school - apart from a little nature study, none of my 1970s / early 1980s primaries taught any kind of science at all.

The problem seems to be that you cannot have primary teachers who are highly qualified in all subjects - especially given the small number of A-level subjects any person can do. That is the 'issue' with primary teachers being generalists. As no individual teacher can already hold e.g. A-levels in all the subjects that they teach (and therefore whenever the spotlight falls on a partcular subject everyone can ALWAYS express horror at the level of qualification the average teacher holds in that subject).

As it happens, I have very high qualifications in science (PhD from a venerable university) BUT I didn't continue English, History, Geography, French, RE etc past O-level, and I have no formal qualification at all in PE or Art or anything other than an instrumental Grade 6 in music....yet I teach them all. Perversely, perhaps, it took me longer to become a good science TEACHER than it did to become good at teaching English or History - having greater subject knowledgs does not always make for better teaching.

I think the sane thing to do is to have generalist primary teachers (in the sense that they teach literacy and numeracy) and actual subject specialists trained to work with primary school children. It's madness unrealistic to think that anyone can be great at everything. Of course, it would help the DfE would stop making ever more part of the primary teaching remit...

Ds1's science teaching markedly improved when he transferred to a middle school where the science lessons were taught by science teachers trained to teach KS2 and 3 (who rotate with other teachers in the high school). The core areas of primary teaching, which is where many primary teachers are most comfortable (and many are very talented in indeed), were covered by generalist primary teachers. But they got to hand over things like science and languages to a specialist. The system has the added advantage that the kids already know several teachers at the high school and it doesn't seem so strange. (It's two schools in the sense that they are on different sites and ofsteded separately, but the same HT oversees both and they have the same uniform and rules).

mrz Thu 13-Dec-12 20:45:28

Actually we had two teachers with science degrees working in my school a few years ago and their science teaching was shocking

mrz Thu 13-Dec-12 20:47:40

I would add my son learnt far more science in his primary school than he did in his secondary

learnandsay Thu 13-Dec-12 20:58:13

Is this the same son who is an autodidact? (I'm aware of the fact that you disagree with this label.)

learnandsay Thu 13-Dec-12 21:00:41

And did he do any science A levels?

mrz Thu 13-Dec-12 21:04:36

He hasn't taken A levels learnandsay

learnandsay Thu 13-Dec-12 21:07:48

Is it fair to say then, that he had previously learned more about science in primary school than he had up until this point in secondary school, but, because he hasn't finished secondary school yet it's not yet certain which school will have taught him more about science?

mrz Thu 13-Dec-12 21:11:22

He has finished secondary school but he didn't take his A levels due to attempting suicide learnandsay

learnandsay Thu 13-Dec-12 21:15:13

Oh, crikey! God, I'm sorry to hear that. Hope he finds a way back to contentment. You've had a tough journey, mrz. Glad you're here.

mrz Thu 13-Dec-12 21:25:50

Thanks for you kind thoughts at the moment he is relatively happy

Feenie Fri 14-Dec-12 07:09:20

Glad to hear it, mrz xx

morethanpotatoprints Fri 14-Dec-12 22:36:00


I have just read your post. You help so many others and have been through so much yourself.

I do hope your son will be ok, sending you hugs.

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