Protesting Doncaster parents took their children out of school yesterday in a stand against tough new national tests.
With the backing of the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign group, mums and dads across the borough chose to boycott the classroom and allowed their youngsters to instead take part in a day of fun, but educational, activity.
The move follows the introduction of tougher SATs exams for primary age children which many parents claim are leaving some stressed and unable to sleep.
Mother of two Dawn Stephens, aged 38, of Wheatley said she had left her 11-year-old son in Town Field Primary but had opted to remove her six-year-old daughter, explaining: “My son is sitting his SATs this month so if I took him out today it would be detrimental. I don’t agree with it but I think it would be damaging.
“Because of the new standards for the SATs my daughter is not at the correct level and has had to have extra reading, literacy and maths sessions.
“She came home one day and said she had to be taken out of the classroom three times for these sessions, it was the fact that they made her feel different to the other children.
“There was a new boy who got ‘star of the week’ and she was upset because she never got ‘star of the week’, she feels she’s not as good as everyone else and this is having an emotional and detrimental effect on her.”
Instead the family took part in an activity day at Sandall Beat Wood, Dawn added: “It’s about learning in a different way, it’s not as structured as being at school but they are using their imagination and are socialising, something they don’t get to do at school.”
Let Our Kids Be Kids have submitted a letter to education secretary Nicky Morgan explaining that pupils were being asked to learn concepts that may be beyond their capability, with children as young as six labelling themselves as failures.
A spokesman said: “There are tens of thousands of us, and we have reached the point when it is time for us to speak. We want an end to SATs now.
“In May, children in Year 2 sit a whole weeks’ worth of exams. These children are six or seven years old.
“All year, their curriculum has been centred around comprehension and arithmetic in order to pass these tests.
“Outdoor learning has decreased, childhood anxiety has increased, games have been replaced with grammar, playing with punctuation.”
The protest day was led anonymously to avoid the focus being put on certain localities or schools.
Another Doncaster mum, who wished to remain anonymous, explained why she was taking part in the protest. She said: “This was a carefully considered decision taken by me. I believe that the SATs for seven-year-olds are not about learning they are about ranking.
“The government aren’t listening to teachers, headteachers or parents. There’s no evidence to suggest that taking SATs at seven will have any benefit in terms of their learning.
“The whole thing is ideologically driven and is not about learning. No-one’s listening to the children’s voices in all of this either.”
Damian Allen, director of learning and opportunities: children and young people at Doncaster Council, had previously urged parents to keep their youngsters in school, explaining that normal procedures would be in place for unauthorised absences.
He added: “This is an important period of preparation for tests and assessments which are required by Government.”
A DfE spokesman said: “We know mastering the basics of literacy and numeracy at primary school has a huge impact on how well children do at GCSE, which is why we are determined to raise standards.
“We have updated the Key Stage 2 tests to reflect our new, more rigorous curriculum, which will help every child fulfil their potential regardless of their circumstances.
“Tests help teachers identify and provide the support pupils need as well as giving parents a picture of how their child is doing.”
Parents can face fines for taking their children out of school without permission.