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Schools in the news this week

There have been two stories in the news this week that have not received as much attention as I feel they should. The BBC has written that the plan to scrap free school dinners for infant aged children has been scrapped and also reports that two fifths of children have failed to reach age related expectations by the end of Key Stage 2.

OK so let’s start with the free school meal for infants. The government spent a huge amount of money equipping kitchens to be able to cater for this then they tried to abandon the idea and replace it with a breakfast. The reduced costings were due to an assumption that few children would take it up. In the run up to the election I discussedihist with my 7 year old son and he couldn’t understand it.

I am not ashamed to admit that when Matthew started school he was classed as disadvantaged. We lived with my parents. I had no income except child tax credits and their biological father has only made 4 child support payments in 7 years. Matthew would have qualified for free school meals anyway, but now our circumstances have changed. Anya starts school in September and she will not be considered disadvantaged as she comes from a secure home with a stable family and income. Matthew will move to junior school where the free meals are not offered.
My own personal preference is to eat a main meal at lunchtime to fuel me for the afternoon, and I believe children benefit from the same. Having worked in schools for over 10 years, I know the struggle staff have to ensure that packed lunches are healthy so a school dinner provides a perfect alternative and varies the range of food that children experience. As a mum, I love not having to worry about my food choices being judged. I make a packed lunch for Anya at preschool but she currently dislikes sandwiches, wraps, crackers etc so it is a real battle!
Next, the SATS. I will admit straightaway to a conflict of interest on this one. My son has just taken his Key Stage 1 SATS and I have had reassurance from the teacher that he has done well. I also work at two infant schools so know of the pressures being faced in the wake of the introduction of the more challenging curriculum and the assessment of Age Related Expectations.
The BBC article refers to the Key Stage 2 SATS taken at the end of Year 6.

How can it be right that children are failing? Yes, I know that competition and testing prepares them for later life and I think that making qualifications harder to achieve increases their value. But there needs to be a narrative behind the data. Progress of the individual is surely more important than whether they have passed a national standard. When Matthew started school he couldn’t read and wouldn’t even hold a pencil (despite living with a retired teacher – hi Mum!), now he reads fluently, writes, draws, paints etc so his progress has been phenomenal.
At every parents’ evening, my questions have always been ‘does he have friends’ ‘can he express his emotions’ ‘how does he interact with others’ ‘what are his strengths and weaknesses’ ‘how can I help’? I have little interest in his academic ability: this is a tiny part of what makes him Matthew and I anticipate the same for Anya and Zach.
The two infant schools I clerk for are utterly dedicated to helping children achieve their best, whatever their skills and whatever their potential. They are passionate about providing the best education they can for the children in their care, continually adjusting to both national curriculum changes and individual cognitive development.
Testing undoubtedly has its place in our education system but it is not a full picture of the children and future we are creating.


  1. I am not worried about testing on children at all. Our school puts no pressure on ours and they dont even realise they are being tested in Key Stage One. The older ones do, but it gives a great grounding for secondary school and forms key information about what sets and streams they should be in when they start. As for free school meals for all – mine hate school dinner so take a lunchbox. Our school doesn’t have kitchen facilities so it is all shipped in by van – what a waste of time and money!!

  2. I don’t know how I missed all of this – but firstly thank goodness they are not scrapping free school dinners. For a lot of children this is the most nutritious meal of the day they will be getting which is vital for their performance and concentration but I think it does depend on the school. It’s pretty worrying that kids are falling so far from the mark in terms of performance. Thanks for linking this up to #coolmumclub xoxo

  3. I really think it’s important for kids to enjoy a meal at school. It’s more the sitting down together that’s important for me as it teaches them no only manners but helps with their motor skills. I do find this free or not free meals business worrying. Elinor x

  4. I was appalled to hear about the plan to scrap free school meals. What they don’t realise is that for quite a few of those children who do take it up, it may be the only real meal a day they will get. To deprive them of that over so called cost-cuts is disgraceful and disgusting.
    I agree with you that until a child gets to an older age, personal development should be counted more than meeting a national test level. Each child progresses and develops at different rates and to call them failures at young ages just because the government say they aren’t of a certain level is both morally wrong g and disheartening.

  5. Michelle Murray

    I too was appalled when I heard about the school meals. How can they even consider this when for some children this may be the only decent meal they have. So sad

  6. What a great approach, I think those are fab questions for parents evening.
    I was so glad when I heard they had changed their mind about school meals. I’m surprised the number of parents that take packed lunches in for their kids even though they could get free meals. My daughter keeps asking and I refuse to make her one until the meals stop being free.

  7. My son took his SATS in year 6 2 years ago now, and he dealt with them very well. However they were no importance to him, when he got to secondary school they tested them all again and moved them all around classes. I think the children are ‘failing’ due to how hard they are making them, and suddenly that year group were expected to know it all. My twins are in year 3 currently and I really hope they have done something about them by then, however I have a horrible feeling they will be still the same, and a lot more pressure they will be putting on them.

  8. I’m very relieved they haven’t scrapped free school meals! Next year I will have three in infants and I couldn’t afford to pay for school dinners! This way they get a hot meal every day to keep them going, it’s a great scheme that works well!

  9. we are home educating our children. there are many reasons why but a big one if the constant testing of the children. the free school lunches is a gimmick and where I am it’s all provided by an external company and I have no faith in mass produced food.

  10. Emma

    I am a huge fan of the free school dinners and very pleased that they will no longer be taking them away. My son is a really fussy eater but he’s gotten so much better since having school dinners, and I’m hoping for the same once my daughter starts school in September! x

  11. Great post. I agree, it seems like the testing is very heavy handed and possibly more important things like emotional needs and creativity are being sidelined. #SharingtheBlogLove

  12. I completely agree with you about both the meals and the Sats. I remember very clearly when my younger sister (9 years my junior) was sitting her year 6 sats and getting so anxious and making herself ill over it. I feel there is too much pressure at such a young age on exams and there is plenty of time for that in secondary school already!!

  13. I think hot school meals are so important to fuel them during the afternoon. I think it’s a long day for little ones at school and they need a good meal.

    I hope that one day SATs at KS1 will be scrapped so that teaches can focus on planning fun lessons rather than preparing them for tests.

  14. I think kids are tested so much at such a young age. I just wish they could be children for longer and not to have to worry about tests until they’re a bit older. Thanks for linking up to #ThatFridayLinky

  15. Schools make me so angry and my daughter isn’t even there yet. My mum is a primary school teacher and I know the challenges she faces everyday and how much they frustrate her. Lots of teachers agree too that the children are being tested too hard too young. Some of the things she teaches her 6 year olds I don’t even know, because we DON’T NEED TO KNOW THEM. The education system needs to change. There is too much focus on exams and not enough focus on allowing children to blossom creatively and in accordance to their personality. x

  16. our school has been really open with whats going on, we have been told that this is the last year of end of key stage one sats and they are fighting to stop year 6 sats too, a lot of people in our area have complained alot as people do, but so far so good for us, secondary schools are a lot better now and allow the children to choose something they want to learn on top of what the school teaches them, i even remember that in my secondary school, getting to pick history over geography etc

    only time will tell with everything i guess..

  17. I think the free lunches are great. W use them because otherwise I would have to get round to cooking in the evenings because N’s after school club only do snack type tea – jacket, pasta, sausage rolls etc. He’s always still hungry when he gets home. If they weren’t free though I would just pay for ease, and the fact that he’ll get more variety of meals than at home where the OH won’t try other cuisines.

    I’m hoping that SATs go for Y2 next year and not the year after, otherwise N will be doing them. While I’m not totally against testing it should be for the purpose of teachers and children to understand where they are and not for schools rankings. N’s school are quite relaxed about the SATs and try to make them just part of normal school. Although I don’t agree with how complex they are. I have A level english, and minored in english at uni but I’ve no idea about the grammatical terms they have to know. They’re just not relevant. Just get the kids reading more and they’ll pick up most of what they need.


  18. My daughter is starting school in September, we are being asked to let her have free school meals for the first term as they want all the children to have them. I would personally prefer to give her a packed lunch, simply because she is a really fussy eater and won’t eat anything with any kind of sauce on as she has pica. I am not a fan of sats at all as I think the children are too young to be taking tests, my eldest used to worry about them when she was taking them (she is now 14) x

  19. The pressure on schools to make ends meet is terrible….I am a teacher and know of many colleagues who have had their pay reduced (their extra money for taking on extra responsibilities like planning for literacy) because there is no money. That means those friends can’t afford to pay their mortgage and are now looking at moving out of teaching. This is the crisis that we are facing -qualified teachers who can’t afford to feed their own families. I know that the school dinners for children is so important and I am in support of them but not at the expense of losing staff or support staff. The KS2 SATs are a joke. The government decided to raise standards -oh that sounds like a great idea -however they just raised the bar! No wonder so many children “failed” Why are we testing children at this age anyway when they are not developmentally ready? My friends in secondary can not believe in the standard of the SATS at KS2 -they are more like year 8/9 level. I wish we could all relax and let children be children. I’ll get off my soap box now! Sorry! Great post though! #anythinggoes

  20. I’m so grateful for the free school meals, as I know that Alice is having 1 healthy hot meal that is not only good for her. But helps her stay full for the afternoon. I think I will pay for them, when she gets older. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  21. I’m concerned about the cuts of free dinner because it means the next thing they take away will be even worse. Also I’m sure the children that do eat family meals need it the most so it seems like a very rash decision. I like your idea around SATs and that it should be a test against themselves rather than a national standard, why don’t they already do this?? Thanks for sharing with #StayClassyMama!

  22. I think the stress of testing at such a young age outweighs any minor benefits it might have. As children begin senior school, it soon becomes apparent who is at what stage, probably much better than standardised results which don’t allow for a bad day or a child who doesn’t test well but has great academic potential
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes 🙂

  23. Pingback: Anything Goes Linky Week 101 - My Random Musings

  24. I loved reading this post – you put it so well. I love the fact BB gets free school meals, it’s one less thing I have to think about & like you say it fuels them through the afternoon #ablogginggoodtime

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