27 November 2019
Author: Emily Clement - Doctorate in Educational Psychology (DEdPsy), Cardiff University, 2019
Pupils in Wales currently take national tests in reading and numeracy every year from Year 2 until Year 9 (Welsh Government (WG), 2017a). Existing literature considering the experience of such external, standardised tests in primary schools in the United Kingdom (UK) has tended to focus on English children taking standard assessment tests (SATs) at the end of Year 2 and 6 only, specifically exploring the impact of ‘test anxiety’ and closely related constructs (e.g. Connor, 2001, 2003; Connors, Putwain, Woods & Nicholson, 2009; Putwain, Connors, Woods & Nicholson, 2012).
Whilst there is a growing body of research considering the English primary assessment context, it is argued that there remains a paucity of research considering the unique Welsh context, and, furthermore, a lack of consideration for the parent voice in enabling a broader and more holistic view of the test experience. Therefore, this research aimed to provide an insight into parents’ perceptions and experiences of primary school children taking the national tests in Wales.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight parents recruited from two primary schools in different areas of Wales. Recordings of the interviews were transcribed verbatim, and interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was completed.
Three super-superordinate themes were identified:
The research findings are discussed in relation to existing theoretical and research literature; namely concepts from Festinger’s (1957) cognitive dissonance theory, a joint family and school systems approach (Dowling & Osborne, 2003) and the relevance to bioecological systems theories of child development (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Bronfenbrenner & Ceci, 1994).
The implications of the current research for the practice of educational psychology are discussed, including how educational psychologists could work at a variety of systemic levels using tools to explore the test experience with children, parents and school staff, are discussed, alongside the strengths and limitations of the current study.
Further areas for future research are suggested, such as explicitly using a case study approach to explore a variety of different perspectives within one school context, as well as examining the hypothesis that cognitive dissonance exists throughout the system.