Here are more testimonies of parents, children, and adults who have experience of the damage that the mainstream exam system can do:
I'm writing as an adult (51) with late diagnosis of Asperger's, ADHD and dyspraxia (45-50) who l think it is fair to say has still stuck in the exam system - still engaged in a course or certificate (curriculum studying for an AET course) which to validate and or legitimise me and make me acceptable to the general population.
This may be an exaggeration but l am grossly underachieving, educated to MA level but never held down a full-time job and now as a self-employed maker and artist struggling to accept my limitations and decide about my direction. Of course, l cannot blame the exam system for all this but as the youngest of three girls in a family of two teacher/parents sitting the 11 plus was extremely stressful. I didn't think I wouldn’t pass but when l did pass felt l had cheated. One of the few times l recall my parents arguing, maybe the last time was over whether we should go through the comprehensive school system as my Dad favoured or sit the 11 plus and try to get into the public school, as per my Mums wishes. l can remember nothing of my parent’s reactions to my passing, only that my teacher said well done.
I don't recall how we were tested but in upper 5s it was mocks gearing up to O levels. I did well at that level gaining 9 including some As but again, felt like it was taken for granted l would do well. I had developed a method of memorising information and knew how to pass. My esteem, confidence, mental state, etc. were however underdeveloped through isolating from peers and family. Me and my family were so embedded in the school system with both my parents teaching full time while we were at school that we had no idea what the 'real' world was about. Sadly, and again l cannot put this down to the system exclusively but my highly intelligent and ‘uber-talented’ artist sister, who l believe was undiagnosed ASD was so let down by all the hype over her achievements as a young adult and subsequent failure to meet expectations in the world of work that age 48 having bought her own house largely through a series of mind numbing jobs took her own life. The future prospects were non-existent for her and for me too, despite my string of qualifications. This is the sobering reality of living with ASD in a school system which rewards results over process and facts over understanding.
As a result of this l am home educating my ASD child.
Hi, I'm mum to a 16-year-old boy with Asperger’s. He attended a mainstream primary school but has failed to attend numerous special secondary schools. His first meltdown at school was when he was subjected to SATs.
He is still expected to study for and sit his GCSEs even though I have said on numerous occasions that he can't handle being in a classroom let alone sit exams.
No matter how many times I've said he can't be expected to do GCSEs the education department are insisting that it is a legal requirement! How can this still be the case? Why set our children up to fail?
I've been told that my son has to stay in education till he's 18 and that he will not be able to apply for an apprenticeship or work experience unless he has qualified in maths and English.
I am so frustrated by the whole system. It's completely wrong.
My eldest child is about to sit his tests and is diagnosed as ASD, general learning difficulties and is medicated for his anxiety. It's so incredibly difficult to see him under this strain knowing how poor his grades will be compared to how hard he's worked. His memory is so patchy that during a recent trip to CAMHs he actually forgot what his school is called. His mocks are coming out at between an E and G except for product design and catering as he's a hands-on learner and we're hoping for around a D or even a C grade. He has already been accepted into a foundation course at college that will cover life skills and sample other courses but he's not ready to take on an actual subject to study at college level just yet. He attends a Secondary School at present and has been allowed to take less options which allows him to have extra English and maths lessons but he's still so far behind with a reading age of 7yrs. He takes medication daily for his anxiety that needed to be increased during his mocks as he found them a real blow to the system after never sitting a SATS test before and again we increased them in Jan to prepare for the second round of mocks and real exams. I could go on and on!
I'm guessing I'm not the only parent who feels frustrated about GCSEs but it does feel like we're on our own. My son wants to do them to fit in and thank goodness this new grading system has come out so he doesn't understand what a level 3 or 4 is compared to an 8 or 9 but should he sit them at all? Does he have to? Should I make him? He wants to do well but comes home so upset afterwards.
I think you will agree that these stories are very sobering, a system that breeds depression, low self-esteem and a massive feeling of failure when parents are actively telling schools that they cannot cope. It is tantamount to bullying in my view. Many, many parents are expressing the immense feeling of loneliness, and desperation that nobody is listening and they are too small to fight back.
This is what I hope my campaign will alleviate, I hope that we can gain momentum, and grow as a group of parents, carers, students and professionals to support each other and give each other strength when we feel as though we cannot fight any more.
Please spread the word and ask anyone you know of that may have a story to tell, to get in touch with me.
Please contact your MP and Councillor (DO IT, DON'T LEAVE IT TO SOMEONE ELSE) ask them what they think, ask them if they would help to change the system, print whatever you wish from this blog and take it with you for evidence. Ask them to look at this blog.