City head says youngsters were left 'destroyed' by Sats paper

Valley Road Primary School headteacher Debra de Muschamp
Valley Road Primary School headteacher Debra de Muschamp
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A Wearside headteacher has spoken out about the Sats paper which left children and staff in tears.

Debra de Muschamp, headteacher at Valley Road Community Primary School, said the reading paper which the Year 6 pupils sat this week was way beyond the developmental capabilities of children in primary school.

She said it was nothing like she had ever seen before for pupils of this age and even the most able in the class, reduced to tears.

Nationally there has been outrage over the paper, sat by 600,000 10 and 11-year-olds, and the effect it had on children, with teachers saying it was nothing like the sample paper or the curriculum guidelines.

Ms de Muschamp, said: "I understand that schools need to be held accountable and the need to improve, but this was just something else. It was shameful what was done to these children yesterday.

"It was a very sad day. The children were so upset and crying. The staff, including me were in tears for them.

"We are so passionate about the children and giving them the best opportunities and chances in life through education and to see them like this was dreadful.

"We have children with very complex needs and also some with fragile mental health and this just destroyed them."

The headteacher added: "It was the complexity of it and the children only had an hour to do it, they were crying saying they didn't understand the questions. It was far beyond the developmental capabilities of a child that age.

"Pupils, even the most capable ones, just froze and started crying. I have never seen anything like it in my life.

"It is time the government started listening to us professionals over this.

"I have spoken to my colleague headteachers across the region and everyone felt the same."

Ms de Muschamp said the test is a pass or fail one and it is unfair for children to be made to feel like failures at this age.

Key Stage 2 Sats tests are designed to measure students’ abilities in reading, writing and maths and ministers say they have made the tests more difficult as they look to raise standards.

However, many believe the tests, especially the reading one which pupils sat yesterday, were more suitable for 15 year-olds.

The Department for Education defended the harder tests and said they were designed to judge school performances and should "not be a cause of stress" to pupils.

A spokesman said: "The 2016 reading test was developed in the same way as the sample test. Trialling of the 2016 test showed that the difficulty of the paper was broadly similar.

"These tests should not be a cause of stress for pupils ‎- they help teachers make sure children are learning to read, write and add up well.

"The truth is if they don't master literacy and numeracy early on, they risk being held behind and struggling for the rest of their lives - we are determined to prevent this by helping every child reach their full potential."