It’s SATS Week – But Who Is Benefiting?

It’s SATS week and over the next few days thousands of primary school aged children will be put through their paces under exam conditions in the government’s attempt to standardise education across England.

Standard Assessment Tests or SATS as we know them are designed to test your child’s progress against their peer group in the core subjects of Maths, English and Science and are held in Year 2, Year 6 and again in Year 9.

In the Key Stage 2 SATS at Year 6 level, these “tests” are performed under formal and strict examination conditions and come with months of prior preparation, revision and pressure to perform.

I think I was one of the first ever years to do SATS in year 6 and we knew nothing about them. We were not prepared in any way for them in part because the teachers weren’t sure what to expect and in part because there wasn’t the same amount of pressure to achieve at such a young age. We were simply given the papers, told to answer them to the best of our ability and thought nothing more of it. We all achieved what was expected of us and that was a true measure of how well our school was performing. The grades we got were never mentioned again as far as I know. Have you ever been asked for your SATS grades in an interview?!

Nowadays, Year 6 children are subjected to endless hours of classroom preparation, booster classes before and after school and endless “practice papers” being sent home for revision purposes. The pressure is such that it is now the norm for parents to be paying for private tutors to come to their houses and make sure that their children are meeting expectations.

I, as much as any parent, would like to know that my son is achieving to the best of his ability in these important core subjects but I already know this from the quarterly parents evenings held with his teacher and the detailed written school reports that come home in an envelope at the end of each term. If he was way behind or indeed, if he was way in front of his peers then I would already be aware because the school would have made it very clear and suitable actions would be taken to remedy or encourage said progress. So why exactly are our children being subjected to this extra pressure? Who is it benefiting?

This morning my boy was feigning every kind of illness under the sun (including death at one point) in the hope that he could stay home. He is a sensible and conscientious boy and cannot bear the thought of failure as he sees it. He believes that failure to achieve what is expected of him will ruin his chances of getting into a good set in high school and ultimately affect the rest of his life. Do you see how ridiculous this is? He is ten years old. Concerns over failing, under-performing and ruining his adult career choices should not even have entered his head. He should still be discovering the world through imagination and muddy knees not fearing school as a place of stress and education as a source of pressure. The rest of one’s life is a heavy burden to hold over a child’s head, especially when it’s not even true.

Testing our young people in this way shows us nothing other than how they can perform under undue pressure. The ability to answer exam questions is a learned skill and not one that many people are much good at so why is this government insistent on measuring our young people by it? Those three numbers that come back in July will show us nothing about our child’s love of reading, artistic flare, sensitivities, talents, sporting prowess, teamwork or self confidence. Are these attributes not equally as important?

I have read in the papers that there are parents who will be boycotting the SATS this week and whilst I won’t be joining them, I can’t say I blame them because I really cannot see how these exams are benefiting anyone other than the government and its self-imposed targets.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject so please leave a comment and let me know

x

 

A Mum Track Mind

 

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53 Comments

  1. Julia
    May 3, 2016 / 11:53 am

    I agree. Ridiculous put such stress on children, bad enough when it comes to GCSE’s.

  2. May 3, 2016 / 12:42 pm

    I think these tests can be a useful barometer of what is and isn’t working for teachers, to see what areas kids are struggling, and as a way to identify individuals who are over or under performing, but unfortunately none of those seem to be what they are used for. Like you say, its just an overwhelming stress for the teachers and students alike

  3. May 3, 2016 / 6:53 pm

    I completely agree. If they were being set as random out of the blue challenges then they might give an accurate measure of performance but all they seem to be doing at the moment is taking up everyone’s time in preparing for them and teaching the test. It’s that I mind as much as the pressure it puts on our children because as you say, no one will ask what they got in interview decades down the line!
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  4. May 4, 2016 / 11:31 am

    In a way I think testing is useful (or should be), but most children have spelling, tables tests during primary anyway, and the teachers should be aware of any issues to work on. It should be more relaxed and the knowledge they seem to be expected to have just seems madness (from someone who went to a good state primary and secondary, private 6th form, and uni who doesn’t know half of the technical terminology of sentences etc that they’re expected to know even in the year 2 tests).

    I guess the hope is that the boycott will mean politicians take note. I can’t believe that any of them with children haven’t compared notes with what the scandinavians do vs the rigorous style they’re bringing in more akin to china which just doesn’t work for all children. It’d be interesting to know what the US think of their SATS because I’m presuming this is where it came from – they seem to be tested a lot more than our kids used to, and yet I don’t see them at the top of the league tables either.

    Thanks for linking up to #schooldays

  5. May 4, 2016 / 8:49 pm

    I think it’s too much stress and pressure on young children, it’s tough enough being 15-16yrs old and revising for GCSEs let alone being any younger #BloggerClubUK
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  6. May 4, 2016 / 8:55 pm

    Totally agree, they’re pointless tests – the same information could be gleaned from continuous assessment, without any of the stress or pressure it puts on kids, teachers, and the timetable.

    When SATs were scrapped here (Wales), I read some really interesting interviews with headteachers across the country, talking about how they just encouraged children to see themselves as black and white ‘successes or failures’ when, really, it’s continued improvement which is the most important thing, no matter where you’re starting from. It really does seem like the English education system is trying to get back to the 1950s rather than being innovative and looking forward. x #schooldays
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  7. May 5, 2016 / 8:44 pm

    SATs in Primary School seem silly and unnecessary to me, especially when it is making your son not want to go to school. At that age they should be going to school to play, have fun, make friends and learn, I personally think that SATs should not be introduced until secondary school where children need to get used to an exam style environment ready for their GCSE’s. It’s scary how early children are tested these days, who knows what the education landscape will be like when my daughter goes to school. Claire x #fortheloveofBLOG
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  8. May 6, 2016 / 8:20 am

    There is overwhelming pedagogic evidence against over-testing; educational experts agree it is counterproductive. Unfortunately, this government does not understand what is best for children and they are not willing to listen to those who do know.

    I hope the boycott works!

  9. May 6, 2016 / 3:02 pm

    I think they should let kids be kids and find more fun ways to access them . When I was a child I did rubbish at tests as the stress of it all would be too much for me !! #BloggersClubUk

  10. May 7, 2016 / 9:09 am

    I do worry about these early exams causing such stress at such a young age. I remember doing the SATs in year 6 but don’t really recall how I felt about them. I remember the ones in secondary school in year 9 more. I definitely stressed about those. I don’t remember anyone caring about our grades – although I have vague memories of being put in a different group in science in secondary school because of my science SAT grade. This is going back nearly 18 years ago now! I can only imagine the sort of pressure our kiddiwinks will be under at school. I won’t know much about it for a few years yet, but I’m not looking forward to it! xx #fortheloveofBLOG

  11. May 7, 2016 / 9:09 am

    This government is appalling end of. #fortheloveofBLOG

    • May 8, 2016 / 8:25 pm

      This government are yet to do anything that I can get on board with. The whole thing is soul destroying for children.
      x Alice
      #fortheloveofBLOG
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  12. May 7, 2016 / 9:25 am

    I couldn’t agree more – it’s a crazy amount of pressure to put on such young kids. The government seriously has to rethink it, and I was pleased to see the strikes happening in Brighton in hope that change will happen as a result of it. Great post, thanks for hosting #fortheloveofBLOG
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  13. May 7, 2016 / 9:41 am

    Children should be able to play and enjoy their childhood. There is plenty of time for stress and hard work in later life, unfortunately. #fortheloveogBLOG

  14. May 7, 2016 / 9:53 am

    I always get confused when I see stuff about the SATS because in America, that’s the test we take before university! I always struggled with standardized testing as a kid – I was good in school but very anxious, and knowing I had to take a test would make me feel sick. It puts a lot of pressure on children. #fortheloveofBLOG
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  15. May 7, 2016 / 10:07 am

    I remember taking yr 6 SATs too and it didn’t seem like much of a big deal. So different from present! I don’t agree with the huge amount of pressure that children are put under at such a young age now. I agree with a previou sposter who suggested SATs once in secondary school not primary school.#fortheloveofBLOG
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  16. May 7, 2016 / 10:22 am

    I think its up to the parents how much pressure they put on their children. Pushy parents will be stressing their kids out no end i’d imagine. I say let the kids do what they want and support them. tests are a part of education all through the school years, but it’s how it’s handled is where the problem lies. xx

    #fortheloveofblog
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  17. May 7, 2016 / 10:49 am

    I’m a long way off these but I hate the thought of these. Children should be allowed to have fun and run free and learn in a non-competitive, stress-free way. There’s enough time for being tested and pressure as an adult. Feedback should be given on performance in a positive way – the most important thing to do for a child is build their self-esteem which will help them to live to their true potential. #fortheloveofBLOG

  18. The_tale_of_mummy_hood
    May 7, 2016 / 11:52 am

    I don’t disagree with SATs in that they provide a representation of the abilities of the students, and the school in delivering the National Curriculum. I do however disagree with the amount of stress students are put under. An insightful post.

    #fortheloveofBLOG

    • May 7, 2016 / 6:41 pm

      Yes I agree, like I said I did them and it didn’t bother me at all but for some reason there is so much emphasis placed on them now. Thanks so much for your comment x

  19. May 7, 2016 / 12:54 pm

    Schools worry about SATS results as it looks bad for them if children are underachieving. But the pressure they put on the children is ridiculous.
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    • May 7, 2016 / 6:37 pm

      It really does seem like it’s more about the schools reputation than anything for the kids doesn’t it! Thanks for your comment x

  20. May 7, 2016 / 1:09 pm

    There is so much pressure on them, it’s true! I’m not sure what the benefit of SAT’s are either?! Daughter 2 has got her 11+ this September and she has put so much pressure on herself to pass… she’s super competitive so failure doesn’t really seem like an option, no matter how many times I reassure her it doesn’t matter! Im dreading it if she doesn’t pass…. she has even asked to do Summer school specifically designed for 11+ tests! it’s crazy, and now we’re pressured to fork out a stupid amount of money so she feels confident going into her test…. It’s crazy and such a shame kids feel this way!

    • May 7, 2016 / 6:34 pm

      They do really take it to heart at this age don’t they! I’m sure they will all be fine in the end but it’s still far too much pressure. Thanks for your comment x

  21. May 7, 2016 / 1:12 pm

    Hmm, I don’t want to say too much as although I am a teacher, I teach secondary so SATS don’t mean a lot to me except that they are used as a benchmark to set targets that the students are expected to reach at KS3 and later, at GCSE. That said, I think in general the government’s policies on education are extremely backward looking and counter-productive, and as a previous poster said, those in power know very little about education and are unwilling to listen to those who do. #fortheloveofBLOG
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  22. May 7, 2016 / 2:33 pm

    I completely agree, I think theres far too much pressure and stress put on our little ones, especially when you think our kids will be taking tests at an age when in some countries their littles are only just starting school. #fortheloveofBLOG x
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    • May 7, 2016 / 6:17 pm

      Exactly! And if you think that Scotland and Wales don’t even do SATS it really shows how unnecessary they are. Thanks for your comment x

  23. May 7, 2016 / 2:39 pm

    Education has become so competitive both from the school’s perspective and the children’s and this is unfortunately the beginning of a very long road of testing and from my experience there does not seem to be any let up at all. All we can do is keep telling our children they can only do their best and support them as much as possible. #fortheloveofBLOG

    • May 7, 2016 / 6:16 pm

      It is a competitive world we live in – I just wish we didn’t have to expose kids to it at such a young age! Thanks for your comment x

  24. May 7, 2016 / 3:30 pm

    I’m so shocked about this, especially after seeing some of the questions asked. Things no child that age should need to know (tough enough for me!). #fortheloveofBLOG

  25. May 7, 2016 / 4:53 pm

    I think there must be a better way to ascertain all these levels of achievement…smaller tests, more regularly maybe plus, as you say, the regular parents/teacher evenings. To be honest I don’t know a huge amount about this but I do know that stress is not something I think children should be feeling…I adored learning and I adored primary school, we never had homework and we never had SATs. It was fun, interesting and playful, I’m quite sure we had other tests and monitoring that I was unaware of though. I do worry about the stress levels in today’s society for my son. Thanks for sharing your thoughts…hope your son felt OK about it in the end #fortheloveofBLOG

  26. May 7, 2016 / 4:56 pm

    The SATS tests are ridiculous. I’m originally from the UK but I now live in Switzerland. Here children don’t even begin to read and write till they are 6/7 and don’t get tested. The learning comes a lot easier as they start later and it’s much better for their overall learning.
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  27. May 7, 2016 / 4:59 pm

    I really agree with you, I think it’s totally unnecessary and sad that children are made to take these tests and put under so much pressure. I personally think that learning in primary school should be geared towards more creative and playful methods and I hate hearing the stories of primary school children experiencing anxiety and stress. It’s so wrong. #fortheloveofBLOG
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  28. May 7, 2016 / 5:35 pm

    I think kids need to be given more time to be kids and therefore do not need all the stress and pressure at such young age.

    #fortheliveofblog

  29. May 7, 2016 / 5:39 pm

    Bravo! Well said! I have yet to meet anyone who agrees with the current SATs situation and the increasing pressure on children. Let’s hope that the government will eventually listen and make changes, like they have had to over the academies issue. #fortheloveofBLOG

  30. May 7, 2016 / 6:22 pm

    they are way too young for so many tests. just let them be kids and enjoy learning. plenty of time for the tests and exams later on #fortheloveofBLOG

  31. May 7, 2016 / 7:54 pm

    My 7yr old knows nothing about them, I don’t think there is any pressure in YR2 ( I can only speak for his school obviously) but by the sounds of it there is much more pressure in Yr6 , how sad, and upsetting for you too. Was he ok afterwards? #fortheloveofblog
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  32. May 8, 2016 / 5:05 am

    Wow, those tests so AWFUL. I think I’d be joining in with the boycotts, they don’t sound healthy or beneficial in any way.
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  33. May 8, 2016 / 7:32 am

    Excellent written post. Mine have been through it too and I would say it is definitely too much pressure – I was quite lucky that my children are quite chilled out but the frenzy in the school playground told me that others – including parents – really weren’t. My children went to an exceptionally competitive primary school – I hated it – but I will be really honest and say that I felt it was the parents that really added to the stress and the level of competitiveness around grades achieved – couldn’t bear it. And you’re right, no one EVER asks you what you got in your SATS unless its another competitive mum asking what your child got because their Tommy got level 6078 – off the bloody scale he’s so clever! #for theloveofBLOG
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  34. May 8, 2016 / 7:58 am

    My daughter is in her last term of reception and enjoys school I know from year 2 that might not be the case and I aim to make it very clear to her (and the school, should I need to) that these tests do not matter, they do not tell her her worth and if she messes up then I really will not care.

    Like you we will have conversations with her teacher on parents evening, reports and chatting to my daughter about school. I can see how much she’s already improved since she started and those are the things that impress me. Not a mark on one test paper that means absolutely nothing to me and it shouldn’t to my daughter.

    It really makes me angry actually and I know I’m not a year 2 parent yet but I feel like I’m gearing up for a fight. If I, someone that couldn’t be bothered to revise for GCSE’s dropped out of college and then dropped out of Uni can still make a success of my life, with my own business, then my daughter certainly can. I have no real grades but I have real life experience now, and I make my own money, which, in my opinion, is better than working for someone else and earning them money! #fortheloveofblog

  35. May 8, 2016 / 8:31 am

    I think SATS fail to achieve what the government want out of them. They are counterproductive, put undue stress on teachers and kids and have them working towards the test rather than enjoying the primary school experience. Thanks for sharing, Fi. #FortheloveofBLOG

  36. May 8, 2016 / 12:23 pm

    I think the amount of pressure being put on kids for these SATs is insane – I was talking to a friend who is a teacher about it and I couldn’t believe some of the things that are asked in the tests! I loved primary school I have such fond memories of it – I hate to think other kids won’t have that xx #fortheloveofBLOG

  37. May 8, 2016 / 7:55 pm

    Completely agree. My son took his SATS last year and he worried himself sick over them! I think the amount of pressure is crazy, even when their teachers keep telling htem it’s okay and not to worry, there is so much emphasis on them and expected grades. I don’t remember doing SATS but we did do some form of assessment and I still remember worrying about that! #fortheloveofBLOG
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  38. May 9, 2016 / 12:33 am

    I agree, it’s ridiculous. Why is it necessary to put so much stress on kids? It’s bad enough wasting precious time that could be used for real and relevant learning in order to prepare for exams that are essentially meaningless and useless to the children doing them. We didn’t have all that in my day! #fortheloveofBLOG

  39. May 9, 2016 / 8:00 pm

    It some respects I’m lucky my little boy is only two, I know things will have changed a lot by them time he starts school, but I’m worried. Genuinely worried about the actual education he is going to get. If he is just going to be taught to pass a test, then honestly what’s the point, and if he’s like his mummy then he will worry and he will have to start battling feelings that he shouldn’t even be aware of far too soon. SATs and many other things leave me so worried about his future eductaion. #fortheloveofBLOG
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  40. May 10, 2016 / 8:28 am

    This is a very interesting post. I can’t remember a lot about taking my SATS as it was around 20 years ago, however, I know, from reading in the press, the pressure kids are under. #fortheloveofblog

  41. May 10, 2016 / 6:53 pm

    There is so much pressure associated with the SAT’s. When I took them there was a lot of prep involved & I was really nervous for them. They have a huge bearing on which college you can get into but after that they really are obsolete. I’d love to get rid of a secondary level standardized test & just go with the gpa – that shows work over four years not just on the day. Thanks so much for linking up with #bloggerclubuk x
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  42. May 11, 2016 / 9:57 am

    My son is the same, he tries so hard and hates it when he ‘fails’ or gets something ‘wrong’. I think measuring against their peers is wrong for a start. Progress would be better measured against where they were when they were last tested.That’s why I would like to see smaller, less formal tests more frequently, so it is part of every day life and they are not aware of it.

  43. May 11, 2016 / 11:13 am

    It sounds extremely stressful. And I agree with you, 10-year-olds shouldn’t be worrying about the rest of their lives. Our lives were so simple when we were kids. It’s sad that the next generation isn’t as carefree as we were 🙁

    #fortheloveofBLOG
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  44. May 12, 2016 / 9:42 pm

    It is totally unfair to put so much pressure on kids – their academic life is filled with exams and tests once they reach secondary school. They need to have the opportunity to learn to love education without the added stress of tests and exams at such an early age. Thanks for hosting #fortheloveofBLOG

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