The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday
Snowflake children have to learn that exams should be difficult
John Stuart Mill began studying Greek at three, Latin at eight, and had the classical canon down pat by 12, plus algebra and the key English historians. He might have been a particularly precocious young scholar, but expectations of students of all abilities certainly used to be much higher than they are today. Indeed, last week offered a pitiable spectacle of how things have changed. Children were reportedly left sobbing in school at the sight of the new Year 6 Sats reading paper.
In the past, difficulty might have been seen as a good thing: a challenge to pupils and a spur for them to work for their grades. Now it is an alarm bell signalling a threat to the mental health of young people. Thus the likes of Kerry Forrester, the head at a Cheshire primary school, warning about the “negative impact” of the tests. This fits: it is commonplace to hear about children becoming distraught the moment they can’t get a question right first try, or if something they have done is returned for correction. It’s a terrible sign of what is to come; if they cry at a tricky test question, how will they cope with life, the ultimate tricky test?
And then there’s the astonishing fact that this test is considered difficult at all – least of all for children aged 10 and 11 and, mind-blowingly, for teachers, some of whom also said they struggled to answer some of the 38 questions. Based on passages in a 12-page reading booklet, the Sats ask children to decipher words such as ”hotspot”, “vulnerable” and “eradicated”.
I took a look at some of the questions and the answers should be blindingly obvious to anyone with any reading and writing ability at all. Perhaps the maths bit is harder. I never was any good at that. But being bad at maths didn’t make me cry – it made me work harder, and then happily chuck it all in the moment I could.