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Exam ‘fetish’ is wrecking childhood, says PhilipPullman

AUTHOR Philip Pullman has accused education chiefs of having an exam ‘fetish’ that ‘ruins children’s lives’.

Tests focusing purely on knowledge of facts, rather than schooling that encourages children to be creative and learn for enjoyment is a ‘terrible recipe for the destruction of the soul’, the novelist warned.

The 71-year-old (pictured) said teachers were doing ‘wonderful things’ to help pupils find ‘delight and interest in everything that exists’.

But the government has got it ‘badly wrong’ by rating schools’ exam performance.

‘To drill the interest out of everything by making children pass tests, it’s as if you want to destroy their childhood,’ he said. ‘They seem to think the function of a book or poem is to provide exercises for grammar. It’s not. It is to delight, enchant, beguile.’ Tests such as SATs should be ditched in favour of pupils reading for pleasure, the His Dark Materials author argued.

‘We hear of the desperate straits that some children get into now. It’s entirely unnecessary,’ he said. ‘Yes, we have to test children at some stages of education. But to make them a complete fetish and to make the very existence of the school depend on their success in the league tables is monstrous.’

Pullman, who is backing a Woodland Trust contest for children to design their own ‘daemon’ — a concept from his books where people’s souls take animal form — said there is still an ‘appetite for books’.

‘The advantages of a book as a piece of technology are unsurpassed,’ he said.