WHEN head teacher Rachel Tomlinson wrote an end of term letter to her Year 6 Barrowford primary school pupils there was no way she could have known that it contents would soon be published around the world.
While the school’s SATS results were very good, she went on to tell the youngsters that exams do not always assess what makes them ‘special and unique’.
Her actions, which went viral on social media, have been widely praised for pointing out how important educating the whole person is, not just training people to pass tests.
Paul Oliver, spokesman for Blackburn’s Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, described the letter to 10 and 11-year-olds as ‘refreshing’.
He said: “It’s really time that someone put it into perspective. Schools are about more than just exams. It’s right that they focus on social and emotional development too. Every school has a wider brief than just tests and this school is just showing that they realise that.”
Headteacher at Haslingden High Mark Jackson said: “I completely agree with the sentiments of the letter. It’s not that tests don’t count, it’s just they are not the be all and end all. It’s really refreshing in these times of Ofsted pressures to see a school and headteacher who think there is more to being a fantastic school then just results.”
Schools councillor for Blackburn with Darwen Dave Harling said the letter to Key Stage 2 test pupils was an example to other schools.
He said: “I think it’s a lovely letter. It says all the things each pupil has got to offer which cannot be defined by tests.
“However we have a system which currently places all the emphasis on tests. It’s great of the headteacher to remind the pupils of all the things they don’t measure. Of course English and numeracy tests are important but they don’t tell a university or an employer about all the things this person can do.”
Hyndburn’s conservative leader and former teacher Peter Britcliffe said he thought the country had ‘gone testing mad’.
He said: “While tests are important, I don’t like such a focus on them, particularly at the primary school age.
“When I was at school in the fifties you had a test every Friday and you would be numbered from 1 to 36 on the result. Not so good if you were not near the top.
“I see the value in testing to check on ability levels and where children need help but there shouldn’t be so much pressure at so early an age.
“There seems to be a cycle where education goes through phases. Whenever it has been in fashion, I have never been a fan of tests, tests, tests.”
Assistant head teacher at Sacred Heart Primary in Blackburn, Liz Beaumont said: “In the climate of constant academic testing, most schools are striving to maintain a nurturing climate. One which values all children's unique talents, skills and personal qualities.
“I hope now this letter has gone viral and evoked so much admiration, the public will want to see more than test results, Ofsted categories and league tables. Where they judge the effectiveness of schools in raising successful, balanced and confident learners."
Darwen Vale teacher and NASUWT union representative Claire Ward added: “Part of the reaction to this letter is because people are fed up of over testing. It’s fair to say the exam culture and treating children like pieces of data has gotten old for many teachers and parents.”