Lacy Chapman, Principal of Lower School at ACS Cobham International School, on a new method of testing for primary students

A recent survey revealed that eight out of ten school leaders have seen an increase in mental health issues among primary school children during exam season in the UK. In addition, headteachers reported an increase in fear of academic failure (76%) and depression (55%) among their pupils in the period since 2014.

It seems today’s pressurised system of testing is causing children as young as six to stress and worry at a time when they’re supposed to be learning to love school. Instead, young students increasingly fear failure due to an endless stream of testing, or preparation for tests such as the 11+.

It’s apparent that something needs to change, in favour of a new system that abandons rigorous, formal testing and nurtures imagination and a love of learning.

Being assessed in such a formal manner at a young age places a huge amount of pressure on students and stifl es this natural curiosity to learn with cramming facts, revision and taking tests. With increasing pressure to overhaul primary school testing, schools and parents want to see alternatives to the traditional system, where student progress is monitored but the pressures of exams is off. Removing standardised tests from schools allows students, parents and teachers to escape the exam rat race, league tables and the competitive nature of the classroom.

At ACS Cobham, for example, we use MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) testing in lower school to monitor student progress. The tests are taken electronically, and the questions are adjusted to a student’s ability to ensure the tests are different for each child. While standardised testing pressures teachers into meeting ‘essential’ teachers were taught to teach: with each child receiving the individual attention they need to thrive and progress at their own speed. MAP testing allows them to do this and monitor progress, identifying where an individual needs extra support, or differentiating tasks for those who particularly excel. Students are also encouraged to make their own choices about their classwork, identifying which task is best suited to them.

Due to the nature of MAP testing, with no set time limit and tailored questions, students can’t revise for it. So while a developmentally challenging and rigorous program is still provided, it’s a personalised and inquiry-based approach developed to suit different types of learners.

At ACS International Schools, students are not only measured on their academic progress, but also against our school learning outcomes. We want all students to develop as confident, caring individuals and effective learners.

Ultimately, we want to promote positive personal development and instil a love of learning in our students – what primary education is all about.