Book Trust president and renown children’s author Michael Morpurgo has condemned over-testing in schools, stating that it kills the joy of reading for children.
The War Horse author has said that schools are being pressured into “teaching literacy fearfully”, and that testing is “supposed to encourage” students who fail as well as pass exams.
“When you fail it brings only a sense of worthlessness and hopelessness. It brings fear and shame and anxiety. It separates you from those who have passed, rocks confidence, ruins self-esteem. When you fail a test you disappoint yourself, disappoint others. You give up.”
Morpurgo continued with strong words aimed at the school system and assessors, saying that continual testing had introduced “almost an apartheid system of a kind in this country between those who read, who, through books, through developing an enjoyment of literature, can have the opportunity to access the considerable cultural and material benefits of our society – and those who were made to feel very early on that the world of words, of books, of stories, of ideas, was not for them, that they were not clever enough to join that world, that it was not the world they belonged to, that it was shut off from them forever.”
“In her speech outside Downing Street, Theresa May said she wanted this country to have opportunities for everyone. You don’t create opportunities by creating failure.”
Ministers say that it is necessary children master the basics of reading and writing, and that tests help to identify pupils at risk of falling behind. “Assessment has always been an important part of education – we know the tests are harder and we are asking more, but we’re doing that because we are committed to ensuring opportunity for all,” said a Department for Education spokesman. “Tests should not be a cause of stress for pupils - they are there to help teachers understand where children may need more support and we trust teachers to approach testing in a proportionate manner.”
Asked for their opinion on Morpurgo’s statement, our Reading Rooms facilitators stated that “Reading Rooms aims to support schools who strive to address literacy difficulties in the classroom using a creative and informal approach to shared reading.” Hopefully, a system can be found where all children can share equally in the joy of reading, both in and out of the classroom.