All SAT to be demoralised

THOUSANDS of nervous anxious 10 and 11-year-olds spent the gloriously hot and sunny weekend cooped indoors cramming last minute science facts for their first SATs exam on Monday.

THOUSANDS of nervous anxious 10 and 11-year-olds spent the gloriously hot and sunny weekend cooped indoors cramming last minute science facts for their first SATs exam on Monday.

Instead of letting off steam at the beach, relaxing in the garden or playing in the park they were getting their heads round pollination, circuit diagrams, forces and upthrust.

They woke on Monday to sunshine streaming through the curtains feeling sick with worry that they might “fail” the day's two science papers and the week-long timetable of literacy and maths exams.

Every day, year sixes all over the country, have been locked in classrooms in exam conditions to regurgitate facts they've been learning since last October.

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Facts, apparently, to prove to the Government they're being educated sufficiently and teachers are doing what they're supposed to.

If education means force-feeding facts in a narrow curriculum for little people to spill out on to paper at the end of their last year at primary school, then I suppose they're succeeding.

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But this is not education. This is not engendering a love and lust for learning for them, helping children to think for themselves.

The results of these exams are how some children - if they haven't done so already - switch off from learning. Those who fail to make the Government-desired level four feel categorised as “failures” and can become so demoralised that, effectively, their time in education has come to a dead end.

My heart breaks for these children, judged by the value of a grade at 11. Today, for the first time, I questioned my long support for the nationwide revival of an 11-plus.

Parents are panicking that SATs results are used by high schools to decide on the sets their children will find themselves in next term.

Parents with older children already at high school are even more anxious, knowing full well that once in a middle to bottom set, it's often impossible to get their children moved.

Childline on Monday launched a helpline to deal with stress for primary and secondary school pupils. Primary pupils? They should be enjoying school not getting stressed by it.

My older son is doing his SATs - his first external academic exam of a decade or more to come if he goes to university.

The desk in his bedroom groans under past papers, revision guides, workbooks - there's a whole “revision” industry raking in money from anxious parents of nine, 10 and 11-year-olds. He's seen more past papers at 11 than I had pre-O levels at 16.

He came out of his science papers declaring: “No more science for the rest of the year now the test is over.”

He proved my point about the effects of all this testing. Teachers teach for the tests … not to educate.

So while other parents kept their children in at the weekend to revise, mine was out playing tennis, making water bombs to ambush his brother and cheering on Lewis Hamilton in the Turkish Grand Prix.

Other parents are banning after school activities this week for more revision. My son was not going to miss his first mid-week cricket game of the season to revise, his tennis lesson nor football practice.

No one believes in raising educational standards in this country more than me, but treating every child like an identikit-learning block, rather than individuals is destroying the talent and confidence of our children and stymieing freedom of expression and thinking.

Forcing them sit in a stifling school hall to answer questions within rigid guidelines that they've spent the year preparing for - at some schools, children have been bringing home past papers since October - just isn't education as it should be in primary schools.

My son tripped into school on Monday for the brain boosting breakfast his teacher had come in early to cook for her year sixes - the glory of a small village school with the most fantastic teacher. He was happy and relaxed with the “bring it on” attitude my husband has taught him is best in the face of exams.

He'll be fine. But so many won't. Those who struggle, need help, learn differently or get so stressed they need to phone a Childline stress line at 11 and not make the Government guideline of a level four, can start their education drop-out now.

And, for a developed country with supposed progressive attitudes, that's just plain wrong.

MURDERED teenager Jimmy Mizen's father, Barry, said he had made a reasoned judgement in the upbringing of his nine children - either teach them to be streetwise or live as decent citizens with the right values.

He chose the latter, to encourage his children to be good people, hard-working, kind, considerate and peaceable. People who put family and love first.

His close-knit family are a testament to the love and devotion he and his wife, Margaret, have invested in them.

United in grief for the senseless stabbing with a shard of glass of their 16-year-old son and brother, they've presented the most dignified front in the face of the most appalling crime.

Jimmy's mother seems to be quite simply an amazing woman. Her life's work is her nine fine children. She stood outside Jimmy's school gates less than 48 hour after his murder, worried about the effect of his death on his many friends, whose GCSEs are due to start any day.

She pleaded with them to do well in his memory. She rejected any anger - “there's too much anger in the world”, she said - to feel sympathy with the mother of her son's killer.

She had many happy memories of her lovely boy. The killer's mother would have only sorrow for his actions.

Her heart was so clearly breaking but she was determined to hold it together to help others bear the pain. It's mothers like her, in this big, incredible family that give hope that the love of family is still strong in this broken Britain.

A POLITICO friend who worked in Westminster once told me that if you left a career in politics with just four good friends you were lucky.

Gordon Brown, it appears, will be most unlucky.

The vultures are circling now and none so vicious as Cherie Blair and John Prescott, their well-timed memoirs exposing the kindergarten behaviour of those who run our country.

Feathering their own retirement nests, they're happy to bring the party that made them their fortune crashing down for the Tories to pick over.

Labour Party founder Kier Hardie would be spinning in his grave if he could see the party now.

New Labour brought spin and now backstabbing and what feels like an orchestrated campaign to get rid of Brown.

The thing is - and it can't be just me who feels this - the more conniving and vicious the likes of Mrs Blair, Prescott et all are about Brown, the greater integrity he seems to have.

A man who went into politics for the right reasons, with principle and to make a difference and maintain a quiet, efficient integrity.

e'll be fine.But what of the chidren who need help, find learning tough and are forced, whatever their level, to sit these Sats and be classedIS it hot enough for you? If I had a pound for every time I heard or was asked over the last week I'd be well on my way to buying the Southwold beach hut on the market for £70,000 for cash.

A snip at Southwold prices.

After the question, came the moaning. “It's too hot.” “I can't stand this heat”, followed by an over-dramatic “phew” and a exaggerated fanning of the face or “the garden could do with some rain now.”

Don't you just love being British? We could moan and find something wrong if we were handed a million pounds in a gilded purse.

The sun's been out, everything should look and feel better basking in a sunny haze, we can get out of the house and make the most of the beautiful area others save up all year to visit on holiday - but we moan. And moan.

IN his lifetime, my faithful companion Leo, the 10-month-old Golden Retriever is likely to cost a whopping £48,442 on vets' bills, food, insurance and all those other doggy bits that end up in the basket in the weekly trip to Pets At Home.

Worth every penny and more in my book for the pleasure His Royal Furriness brings to our lives.

But the credit crunch brings tough decisions. Ask any woman - the husband or the dog. It's a no-brainer. A dog is cheerful, gives you constant attention, loves you even if you look like a bag of spanners, is faithful, affectionate and is always pleased to see you.

And at £48,442 a darn sight cheaper.

BOSSES are talking about bringing in lie detectors in a crackdown on pulling sickies.

Employers are becoming so draconian; work is becoming more a punishment than fulfilment for many and the workplace a detention centre-cum-prison.

WHERE would we be without the WI?

Always keen to raise a smile, hats - and everything else - off to the women from Suffolk West WI who bared all on Dunwich beach to raise the awareness of skin cancer.

The women in their all-together, just a towel covering their modesty, will be used in a national leaflet. Good on you, girls.

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