My daughter has always enjoyed school but since entering Primary Six the pressure seems to have increased enormously. She gets very nervous about the frequent tests she is given and has started grinding her teeth at night. She is already worried about the Standard Assessment Tests at the end of the year. The amount of homework has also increased. I did not expect this sort of pressure until the upper years at secondary school. Why is this happening? Teacher Julie McGuire replies: This situation is a result of primary teachers themselves sometimes being put under pressure to achieve good test results with their classes. The more emphasis put on tests by education leaders and authorities, the more teachers may feel they have to put their pupils under pressure. Not only do they want their class to fare well in comparison to others but they also see it is a reflection of their teaching. If teachers perceive they are being assessed by their results, the more they will teach to the tests. It is a vicious circle that some primary teachers are not happy with. The crucial question that needs to be asked is: if teachers are constantly teaching to tests, do they have enough time to do real teaching, activities that encourage inquiry-based learning, foster creativity and imagination and develop critical-thinking skills? This type of education will produce pupils who have initiative and can think out of the box, risk takers who are willing and able to use trial and error to solve problems. These are all vital skills that children need for life and society will need in a generation of future adults. Some children, often the very academic ones, thrive on pressure, while it can have a negative impact on others. The curriculum and the way it is taught needs to be engaging, challenging and at times rigorous. However, children generally do not learn best in a stressful environment. Enjoyment and motivation tend to be the best tools for learning. Pressure is also coming from home because parents fear test results in Primary Six will dictate the stream their children enter at secondary school. This means parents are hiring tutors and sending children to extra lessons. And so the vicious circle continues. I recently met a distressed mother whose Primary Six daughter had turned from being a calm, level-headed and affectionate girl into someone she hardly recognised who lashed out hysterically due to imminent end-of-year tests. To avoid this, give your daughter as much support with schoolwork as you can. You could do 10-minute tests at home and revise work she has covered so she gets used to working within time restrictions. Help her achieve a good life and work balance. Do not over schedule her outside school, and encourage her to take part in activities she enjoys, rather than extra lessons or tuition. Physical activities also help to alleviate stress. When discussing test results, do not make comparisons with other class members and make sure you praise the effort she has put in and her individual progress. She should not equate test success in any way with winning love or approval. Society itself is becoming more pressurised. Adults are more accountable in their jobs and working longer hours. Stress is now considered one of the biggest strains on people's health. All this is to come for our children. Do we really want to rob them of their childhoods and produce a generation of stressed children? Parents will only change this trend towards testing if they challenge education leaders.