Leeds headteacher: 'What has happened to having a childhood?'

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A Leeds headteacher has spoken of her heartbreak at having to console 11-year-old pupils who burst into tears during this week’s SATs exams.

Year Six children at Five Lanes Primary School, in Wortley, also struggled to sleep the night before their maths tests and worried they were going to fail if they got questions wrong.

Headteacher of Five Lanes Primary, Jo Fiddes.

Headteacher of Five Lanes Primary, Jo Fiddes.

Jo Fiddes has labelled the controversial tests, which were held this week, as “cruel” and an “unnecessary pressure”. She said: “I have had children burst into tears this week in the middle of an exam. It’s heartbreaking. What has happened to having a childhood?

“Some of the questions are quite difficult and if there are two or three in a row that pupils can’t get, you can see their shoulders slump and heads go down and they feel like they have failed.

“We have had pupils who couldn’t get to sleep worrying about their maths test at the age of 11. It’s ridiculous.”

Her comments have been backed by Yorkshire Evening Post readers.

Hester Nunns-Tidman said: “I do feel they are an unnecessary way of tracking progress.

“Even though Siena, who was six-years-old when she started her Year Two SATs, seemed unfazed during the tests she did say to me on a number of occasions ‘I’m worried I won’t do well’.”

Helen Nash added: “There are far too many exams and tests from an early age.”

Five Lanes ran a series of confidence-boosting sessions for Year Six pupils ahead of this year’s SATs, which finished yesterday, in a bid to tackle anxiety, a series of relaxation activities were also added to the timetable and breakfast clubs were held every morning this week.

And while the school has currently has mental health support from trained staff, Mrs Fiddes warned they would be first in line to face the axe when government budget cuts started to bite.

She said: “In terms of the budget cuts for schools, these extra people we have got to help children with mental health issues will be the first to go, because if there is a choice between teachers or that extra support, having teachers in the classroom must come first.

“In all honesty I don’t see the situation getting better.

“I would love it if the Government listened to headteachers and teachers in the profession who have to sit and administer these exams and see what does to children.

“We hold meetings for parents about SATs and give parents some of the questions and they are really surprised about how hard they are.

“How many of us can do algebra? Yet we are expecting that of our 10 and 11-year-olds. I love my school and I love my kids and SATs make them feel bad about themselves and that makes me sad.”

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