Education secretary Nicky Morgan said primary children should see tests as just “part of their schooling” as she called on schools to stop staging celebrations such as “after-test parties”.
Ms Morgan made the statement as she announced her intention to look at introducing more “robust and rigorous” assessments at key stage 1, which many believe could mark the return of national testing.
The announcement been met with significant opposition from teaching unions, which warned that the changes would be “educationally harmful”.
But defending her decision, Ms Morgan insisted tests should be seen as a normal part of school life and she urged parents not to build up expectations around them by staging events like “after-test parties”.
“They are not exams, they are tests. There are ways for schools and parents to manage that,” she told an event staged by the thinktank Policy Exchange.
“When my son did his KS1 tests he didn’t know he’d taken them until afterwards.
“It’s the same when we get to the end of primary. I don’t want to see after-test parties being held. I want it to be something that children take as part of their schooling.”
Ms Morgan said she would be speaking to headteacher representatives and teachers to explore how best to assess seven-year-olds in the future. More rigorous assessments were “really important” to measure the progress pupils were making in primary school and to hold schools to account, she said.
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said changes to testing would not improve standards of maths or English.
“We support the government’s commitments to help schools enable more children to achieve expected standards of English and maths at primary school,” she said. “But continual testing is not the answer and nor is changing the goalposts every time a minister speaks.”