Stressed pupils

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So education secretary Michael Russell “pledged that the pressure will eventually ease on hard-pressed teachers” (your report, 8 October).

I have taught for 37 years and this past year has certainly seen more stressed-out teachers than ever before. However, my main concern is the number of stressed-out pupils.

The mental health and well-being of pupils has been compromised more than I have ever witnessed, all due to needless over-assessment. We are informed that Michael Russell wants to be assured that assessment pressures “do not increase and, indeed, they decrease over the next 12 months”.

Well, Mr Russell, make it happen sooner rather than later. This year’s S4 cohort is suffering just the same as last year’s.

The pupils’ stress and workload could be lightened dramatically with the immediate cancellation of the burdensome Added Value Units (AVU) which assess the same skills every subject a pupil studies … six subjects, six AVUs and six very similar assessments. This contrivance was devised in ivory towers to measure breadth, challenge and application.

In fact, pupil success will reflect the amount of help a teacher offers, the education of the pupil’s parents/carers and the quality of the resources available in the home, be that books or computers.

We’ve had a postcode lottery in the National Health Service and now here’s a lottery of a different kind. It depends on how a teacher interprets the advice on how to administer AVU assessments.

How much help they offer will depend on their empathy and sympathy for their pupils, combined with the pressure from above to improve exam results and league table position.

Is the teacher’s duty to pupils’ well-being and learning or to the assessments that the government sponsors? Society would prefer both but the pendulum has swung too far.

The Scottish Government promotes health in schools for pupils and employees.

Do your bit, Mr Russell: get rid of the AVUs. Give teachers more time to teach and give pupils more time to learn in a less stressful, less assessment-focused environment.

David Muir

Findhorn Place

Edinburgh