Parent Protest Against SATS

Mums and dads across Sussex & Surrey are supporting what's described as a "kids strike" - in protest at SATS tests for six and seven year olds

More than 1000 people gathered at Preston Park in Brighton for the protest with many parents taking their children out of school for the event.

The children's laureate Chris Riddell has joined them at the demonstration against the introduction of Sats for six and seven-year-olds.

Following speeches by the organisers and Mr Riddell, the gathered parents and children, many waving banners, chanted ``Hands off our schools''.

Mr Riddell, a writer and illustrator, said ``Sats testing for seven-year-olds is an important issue. I do not think some of the questions about testing have been fully explained and there are legitimate concerns about the validity and value of testing at this age.

``My feeling is there should be more trust in teachers and their ability to assess children at this age rather than through testing.

``The children are being put under undue stress and my argument is what is the value of what comes from this testing. I think it is questionable.

``I think we should be concentrating on subjects that do not get a lot of coverage such as protection of school libraries and librarians.

``We should be turning children into readers with the pleasure that gives rather than relying on a testing culture.''

Jane Woods, a mother of two who helped organised the Brighton rally, said: ``With the introduction of Sats for Year Two children, they are being required to reach a standard eight months ahead.

``That is putting a lot of pressure on teachers and children and other creative arts are being pushed out of the way.''

She added that she believed that the more stringent testing was linked to the Government's plans to expand the number of academy schools.

She said: ``I am concerned it's linked to the enforced academisation of schools. When children do not reach the standards, the first step is teachers will not get pay rises and secondly the schools will be considered failing and forced into being turned into an academy.''

Describing the turnout at the Brighton event, she added: ``It's absolutely fantastic and shows the strength of support for the issue.''

Louise Birchmore, a mother of a six-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy, said: ``They have set the standards far too high for our children, they have increased the bar by a whole year, they are being set up to fail.

``I disagree with the whole idea of testing children when they are so young. It's creating a lot of stress, a lot of sleepless nights for my daughter. She doesn't want to go to school any more.''

Louise Sims, a mother-of-two, said: ``It's an experiment on the children which has not been based on any evidence. It's putting so much stress on teachers and on children without evidence it's going to achieve anything.''