Increasing numbers of primary school children are spending their Easter holidays in Sats revision classes, a union has been told.
The last five years have seen a growing trend in the number of schools opening over the break for “cramming” sessions ahead of the tests in May, according to NASUWT’s national official for education Darren Northcott.
Mr Northcott said it was partly due to the pressure placed on schools by the government’s accountability measures.
“It seems like an ill-conceived response to this pressure,” Mr Northcott told the union’s annual conference in Belfast.
“Schools think that this is going to give them an edge in getting the results they need – so that’s the driver. That’s what lies at the heart of it, that’s the perception.”
He warned that the Key Stage 2 revision sessions were preventing children from playing and having balanced lives.
“When you ask children, their viewpoint would be that their time might be better spent playing, or relaxing,” he said.
“If they have been set homework and if that homework is useful and productive they should be doing that – but they also should be doing enjoyable, engaging things in their own time, with their own friends, spending time with their families, which is all a critical part of a healthy childhood.”
While attending, and running, the classes is voluntary, it is not known what messages schools are sending to parents.
And once one school in an area decided to hold the classes, others felt they had to follow suit in order to achieve certain standards, Mr Northcott claimed.
The revision classes tended to be most popular with schools concerned about their performance measures, the former teacher explained.
But he warned they may not even improve standards, asking the conference: ”Where is the evidence that spending time over the Easter period – effectively cramming for a Sat – is going to make the result any better than it would otherwise be?”
Photographs of pupils sitting in classrooms over the holidays have been posted on Twitter, with one showing children being rewarded with cupcakes for their work.
Last week Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced Labour would scrap Sats exams in English primary schools.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: “This is just the latest example of the impact that the current Sats regime is having on children, teachers and schools.
“Our pupils are the most tested in the world, but there is no evidence that the current high-stakes testing regime improves teaching and learning.
“Replacing the current system will reduce the burden of testing on children and teachers, encourage a broad curriculum and separate the assessment of schools from the assessment of children as young as seven”.
The NASUWT conference has also heard reports that pupils as young as 11 have “upskirted” female staff at school.
And teachers warned that children are threatening to stab and kick teachers as pupil violence increases amid funding cuts.