Let Our Kids Be Kids at Sea Life and Everywhere

Posted in support of tomorrow’s ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids’ protest against this year’s SATs:

National Curriculum at Sea Life

Karis will be seven as spring begins
and today she reads beautifully
of aquaria and anemones,
watery new words from a brochure
to bathe and prepare her
for hot summer SATs that test within
landlocked and fixed boundaries,
unable to reward
‘the o flying away from didn’t is an apostrophe’
or to understand, as it’s only October,
the other beauty of her error
when reading the ‘astonishing angels’
from which everything at Sea Life can be seen.

Most noticeable angles are actually hard
as she’ll learn and
tell herself when discovering what might have been.


The poem above was originally published in 1998 in my collection Nearing the Border.

As a teacher and parent, I have always been opposed to English SATs because of their unreliability as tests and also their primary purpose – let’s be real here – to be a measurement with which to pretend to gauge student/teacher/school ‘progress’.

As a teacher, especially a Head of English, I had to teach KS3 SATs, doing so with as much engagement and humanity I could, and then to suffer the negative consequences when not meeting my ‘targets’, this often in spite of challenging blatantly erroneous marking, but usually to no avail. Apart, that is, from the one year when our results were extraordinarily good – some of the best in the country – and again erroneously marked!

As a parent, I made sure my daughters were never troubled by the existence of these tests, and to the best of my knowledge allowed them to stay at home when the tests were being administered at their schools. Both of my daughters are today exceptionally gifted writers, by the way, despite the belief from successive governments that such testing is crucial to student development and progress.

Thus the writing back then and posting today of the poem where one of my daughters demonstrates some of the reasons I will never support this kind of testing [I refuse to call it assessment, because it isn’t]. The irony is, of course, that regardless of this, and an entire career of protesting against such educationally unsound policies, they are still with us.


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