Let me start off by saying this isn’t an article criticising teachers. I know a few teachers, and every one of them works incredibly hard! It’s also not a criticism of school’s or exams particularly. School is important. At Hoshi our students and their parents are told our rules when they join. One of these rules is if a child is not well enough to (or chooses not to) go to school, then they are not well enough to come to class.

Like a lot of people, I use Facebook. My timeline over the last week or two has been filled with posts about the SAT’s that the Year 6 children are currently sitting. These are exams that give an idea of how a child is progressing in English, Maths and Science, and in an ideal world should be used to identify those children that are struggling and need a little extra help. (I say in an ideal world because the pessimist in me feels this isn’t what they’re used for at all. But that’s a conversation for another time).

I don’t particularly object to the exams. What I do object to is the pressure that 10 and 11-year-old children are put under with these exams. I’ll just say that word again. In Bold. Children! I know of one child who was told if they do badly in these exams it will affect them for the rest of their life! I know of children (there’s that word again) who have had sleepless nights worrying about these exams. That is wrong, plain and simple. There will be plenty of time for worrying about exams. GCSE’s are important. A-Level’s are important. University Finals are important. These are all potentially life changing exams. Exams sat in the last year of Primary school are not life changing!

I have several students this age. Most of them I’ve known for 2 or 3 years. I’ve watched them grow and develop as individuals. I’ve seen every one of them cry when they’ve struggled and got frustrated learning a technique they couldn’t immediately do. I’ve seen them smile, laugh and sometimes cry with happiness when they’ve conquered something they’ve struggled with. I’ve seen the nerves, fear and self-doubt before a grading, all washed away as they step on the mats to achieve their grades.

I’ve seen them scared and nervous when they first join the class and watched them grow into confident children who can stand in front of the class and take a warm-up, who can teach and help lower grades. Children who care enough to help their friends, their fellow students, who may be struggling. None of these things can be measured by a paper exam.

I’m not a teacher. I see these kids for only a few hours a week. But I am proud of every single one of them. I’m proud of how far they’ve come. How much they conquer their own fears every single day. Maths, English and Science are all important. But this is only a tiny part of who they are. Exams cannot and should not be used to define who a person is or label them! Every single child that walks through my door is a person. A person who cannot be measured and stuck in a box by a few questions on a piece of paper.

Coach Lee Jones

Hoshi Martial Arts is a not-for-profit Martial Arts & Fitness organisation based in South Wales