Pearson ‘spying on children’ and narrowing curriculum, unions claim

pearson criticised over testing mary bousted

Mary Bousted: the ATL’s general secretary has criticised high-stakes testing

Education giant Pearson has been accused of damaging the interests of children by promoting a testing regime that leads to monitoring students’ use of social media and narrowing the curriculum in schools.

A coalition including teaching unions and campaign groups called on the company to help end the obsession with tests by rejecting the use of test scores as the basis for high-stakes decisions affecting the future of students and teachers.

But Pearson, the world’s largest education publisher and owner of exam board Edexcel, said that it believed some testing was useful and that its focus was on ensuring tests were an accurate reflection of students’ knowledge.

The NUT and ATL unions were joined in London today by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for a lobby of Pearson’s annual meeting over the way test results were being used to shape education policy.

AFT president Randi Weingarten said the level of security around the tests meant students who had talked about them on social media had been suspended from school.

“There is something wrong where test security means so much that it is actually requiring spying on children,” she said.

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted (pictured above) said high-stakes testing had also led some primary schools to focus almost entirely on literacy and numeracy in Year 6, denying pupils access to humanities, arts and other subjects.

“What they test is very, very narrow and schools are so much under the cosh of the inspection regime they’re more likely to give kids a narrow curriculum,” she said.

But Pearson said tests were one way of understanding where a system was doing well and where it could be improved.

“Our focus is on ensuring that our assessments encourage deep and enriching learning, and that results are an accurate reflection of what a student knows and is able to do,” a spokesperson said.

The allegation over monitoring social media related to a specific test in the US. “Posting a question online before all students have taken a test is clearly not fair to all, so we do look out for mentions of test questions on social media,” the spokesperson added.

Related stories:

Scrap ‘damaging’ primary tests, campaigners say – 19 March 2015

Ofqual orders further ‘conflict of interest’ review into privately owned Edexcel – 12 August 2013

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