Parents and children around the UK went on strike on Tuesday in protest at compulsory SATs tests that the government has introduced to gauge the academic progress of six and seven-year-olds.
Some parents believe the primary school tests are subjecting their children to unnecessary stress and taking the fun out of learning.
Let Our Kids Be Kids, the campaign group which organised the strike, estimated that thousands of children did not attend school on Tuesday. But the Department for Education played down the impact of the action.
It said it had contacted 100 schools where a total of just 70 pupils had been kept at home yesterday – fewer than one per school, suggesting that for most schools, it was business as usual.
Responding to suggestions that the strike action was a non event, Let Our Kids Be Kids said: “Even without the final numbers of children absent from school we don’t think anyone could argue what we have organised was a non event given the amount of press coverage and social media activity we have generated in support of our schools and teachers!”
The largest protests took place in Newcastle, where the idea for the protest first originated, and in Brighton, where several hundred people gathered in Preston Park to support the day of action, including children’s laureate Chris Riddell. Speaking in support of the strike, he said: “My feeling is there should be more trust in teachers and their ability to assess children at this age rather than through testing.”
Michael Rosen, who was Children’s Laureate from 2007 to 2009, and adventurer Ben Fogle also added their voices to the campaign. Children faced “a constant stream of assessment by an education system obsessed with box-ticking”, Mr Fogle said.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb gets SATs question for 11-year-olds wrong
Meanwhile, education minister Nick Gibb was left with egg on his face after failing to correctly answer a question on grammar from the latest key stage two test. The BBC’s Martha Kearney asked him whether the word “after” in the sentence “I went to the cinema after I’d eaten my dinner” served as a subordinating conjunction or a preposition. Gibb incorrectly identified it as a preposition.
David Cameron’s official spokeswoman weighed in over the error, saying: “It reflected the fact that what we are about is equipping future generations with a better grasp of reading, writing and maths skills.”
No 10 said tests in primary schools were “not a new concept”, and the government had made them more rigorous to reflect the higher standards being taught.
“This is about improving the curriculum, improving the education of our children in schools. It’s part and parcel of how we want to make sure that their child is getting the best education,” the prime minister’s spokeswoman said.