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