Regarding the total titsup that’s happening this year about the school SATs – the thing that’s upsetting me is not the complete hash that has been made of the marking, it’s that the children concerned are being made to think that it matters to them. It absolutely doesn’t. It’s the league tables that it affects; the ranking of the school, for those who think that sort of thing matters (some parents, Ofsted, headteachers etc). It should not matter one brass farthing to the children themselves.
When SATs came to these shores, they were portrayed as being a measuring tool. The idea was that they would show the level each child was at by asking them questions at a rate that gradually became more difficult, but helped to show what they could do. It was said that most exams tested what a child didn’t know, but SATs showed what (s)he did. But before long, they became more and more important, and this anxiety of the schools (and the parents) was transmitted to the child. Now, in the spring, primary schools coach to pass the SATs, not to further the education of the child. This is absolutely not what was intended at the start.
My younger son was in the guinea pig year, those born in 1983/84. They were the first to take the Key Stage 1 tests and the Key Stage 3 tests. They were also the first to take the AS levels in the lower sixth form, followed by A2s in the upper 6th. This means he was tested in year 2, year 6, year 9, year 11, year 12 and year 13. Official government tests, that is, national ones, not the usual end of term or year exams that we were used to. And all children are subjected to that now – though now, of course, the poor little creatures get Baseline Assessment (if that’s what it’s still called, I’ve been out of primary education for a couple of years) within the first few weeks of term, so that the Contextual Value Added scores can be taken into account at every stage. I’m not against testing, exams, and certainly not against rigour and high expectations, but the reliance on strictly regimented data at the top level is working against good education, not in favour of it, and is causing increasing anxiety for teachers and pupils.
In my naivety, I wasn’t agin SATs when they started. I thought they would be useful. It was worrying, how many seven-year-olds couldn’t read or write (not in our village school) and I thought it would help to target where improvement was most needed so that appropriate help could be given. But all that has happened is that children’s lives have been made a misery. Never have they suffered such stress. It’s a tribute to their resilience that, in spite of this, and the breakdown of family life and the pressure and anxiety of life, particularly in the cities, so many children still cope as well as they do.
And in the most recent instructions for Ofsted inspectors, it’s the statistics that matter above all else. Look at the CVA scores, the SATs, the KS4 results, the RAISEonline data, the PANDA scores – oh no, scrub that last, that’s been superseded. If we don’t have a new acronym every couple of years, what are the mouse-pushers at the DfES to do with their time?