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"Formal assessment processes end up labelling instead of enabling our children.

"A test or skills check is just one piece of information from one point in time. It doesn’t give the full picture of a child’s capabilities and strengths."


Lara Jennings is a teacher, founder of Offspring Education and an education expert and consultant. She runs workshops and consultations with educators with the outcomes of children at the forefront of her mind. She strongly believes that all levels of education should be as child-centred, flexible and developmentally appropriate as early childhood.
She founded Offspring Education which provides professional workshops for educators and teachers, supplies quality educational resources and provides advice and workshops to parents.
Melbourne, Australia, 19th September 2017, Yesterday, a Government-appointed panel put forward an idea that we need to give Year One students a reading and maths test.
As a former teacher, this idea scares Lara. It scares her because she has seen first- hand just how useless testing children actually is. 
"Jimmy was a 12 year old student of mine who had the label of the naughty boy who couldn’t read or write and therefore couldn’t learn. In our Science class, we were beginning a topic on pulleys and gears. The equipment was sitting on the table in front of the children as I was discussing the upcoming topic. Jimmy, grabbed the kit and took it to the back of the room."
"Other teachers may have asked him to stop and listen but I knew he had had a difficult morning, he had fought with his father before coming to school, then he had spent his lunchtime in detention for misbehaving in class with another teacher earlier that morning. I could see that he wasn’t hurting anyone with what he was doing so I let him be."
"After I’d set the task for the lesson, I went over to Jimmy to see what he had done. The structure he had made was incredibly intricate and showed a deep knowledge about pulleys and gears and how they work. At the end of the topic, the children were required to do a written test. His test results showed limited understanding of the topic, but his creation that day showed me the that Jimmy had the potential to be a brilliant engineer! He knew how these things worked better than any other kid in the class!"
"How would a reading and maths test in Year One have helped Jimmy? It wouldn’t have. As it was, Jimmy had spent most of his school life being tested. And these tests always told Jimmy that he was a failure. That he was ‘behind’. Which, to Jimmy and all the other children who are not meeting National Standards, is basically a polite way of saying that these children are dumb."
"Formal assessment is schools such as NAPLAN and this ‘light touch skills check’ (as per Simon Birmingham’s words on his interview with ABC News) is often justified by the idea that it helps teachers to understand what children know and what they need to be teaching. However, when formal assessment processes are relied on, they end up labelling instead of enabling our children."
Lara adds:
"Children already have skills tested before they get to school in an interview. This additional testing would simply be a waste of time for teachers and a waste of tax payers money. Teachers need resources and training to be able to support children in developmentally appropriate educational practices for the early years of formal education. They don’t need another test."
Lara also questions why are we looking to the UK for a solution when they are currently sitting below Australia on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tables for Reading, Science and Maths (http://links.erelease.com.au/wf/click?upn=jsmq4ETA8vWHcPcezuXj8lmINveqZAjWHGN6WahjLwdUcmkQ7aSWn81s11c69500V08vGadTrB4aJTA7tMkkHA-3D-3D_qIooMZrbgczQrC75bCgllj8dRfN68YovQgagbDcCcm5zXMdS2pPKcC5KtgehmXbuCxwYOoZsa9koUyCja-2F4qR0-2BbP7kKEOT0euiRhe-2FRK-2ByV-2BB0rPNlr2Mv448JudGSaRsgztURSl22YKiGBBXLI6fkI7gAfX6uHPTiWpO2Hmge7Lv2a3XpY7ZuIbFqnG2UyBVhGwcKC2Fmna62GxeAM8-2FrsbsM3YjrmlKJYJFC7gwQ-3D). Lara believes that we should be looking at the countries that are in the top 10 for PISA results and taking ideas from them.
Finland is one of these countries that have maintained a healthy spot in the top 10 for Maths, Science and Reading in recent years. One of the key factors in this scenario is that teachers spend time engaging children in deep learning and observing them in action, rather than relying on testing to find out what children know and understand. (http://links.erelease.com.au/wf/click?upn=jsmq4ETA8vWHcPcezuXj8uFbh5OUDpwlZKMu0Zw-2BxecO3ZQD4aHqUF44SkjDpM9d_qIooMZrbgczQrC75bCgllj8dRfN68YovQgagbDcCcm5zXMdS2pPKcC5KtgehmXbuuH-2Fx9FgLrfY2LbBgQbzqWBmMTFGLRicOa4EBX1ZjZIjN6rAHtnQQXWprkKSFpAiFUkDY3I7YXCT9bzrjAPwXZQrtekuTZgRpYgzJxeL2ZJF0d9X2zwuiDr91o-2Fv0-2Ba2rlQictDIMUKPwebob-2BFRhbQ20pKhUp0ZrFuLNSALp9tg-3D)
Lara believes that a test or skills check is just one piece of information from one point in time. It does not give the full picture of a child’s capabilities and strengths. When children are engaged in a developmentally appropriate, research proven education, teachers get to know the children they work with on a deeper, holistic level. They know where they need to steer these children for them to learn in a way that enables each to child to reach their full potential. What teachers need to know about children, don’t come from a test. They come from the relationships that are built in an educational setting where teachers and learners are working together. Not out of an environment that is reliant on testing.. 
Lara Jennings is Primary Teacher by Trade, a Secondary Teacher by experience and an Early Childhood Educator out of Love. She is a self-confessed education nerd.
Lara Jennings is available for media interviews.
Media Contact:
Candice Meisels
0481 369 494
We proudly supply quality, educational resources that are environmentally sustainable, fun & engaging for early education settings, schools, parents & therapists.
We provide professional workshops for educators & teachers. Our workshops are child-centred & draw on the best practices in the industry. Each workshop provides teachers and educators with a well stocked tool kit full of practical strategies to engage young minds as well as a chance to reflect on their own practices to support each child to reach their full potential.
We also provide advice & workshops for parents so that they can have the confidence to be advocates for their child’s education as well as the skills they need to support their child along the way.

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