Say no to SATs

18 May 2018

Dear friend,

I am a teacher... Cut me in half and you'd find teacher written through me (like a stick of rock). It isn't a job to me, it's a profession, a calling. It is something I love doing. I love working with kids...

I consider myself privileged to have taught in the region of 1000 amazing children. I feel the buzz when my pupils learn something new, when they crack something they have been struggling to learn...  Yes teaching is my job but also my passion!

I had freedom in teaching for the first couple of years and worked with an absolutely brilliant teacher. We worked hard to put together interesting topics for our kids and taught a broad curriculum. We knew our pupils really well!

Teaching frameworks were introduced - the literacy and numeracy hours. We became a group of Stepford wives following the routine, sticking rigidly to the timings marked by a kitchen clock on our desk. (Oh wait - we weren't allowed to have a desk anymore!)

It wasn't enough to impose what we were to teach and how. We were then told how to evaluate this learning.

What better way to judge than a test?

Teachers could no longer be trusted to give an accurate assessment of their pupil's learning. We had to be open and transparent and not only would kids be tested but the results would be put out there for all parents to see.

The teaching world shifted with the introduction of SATs and league tables. We were forced to look at our kids in a different way. They were given a mark, graded and highlighted in a list and branded a success or a failure...

I admire those parents who chose to keep their children away from school in protest over the SATs.

Why do I object to the SATs?

  • The results don’t tell good teachers anything new!

I know my kids, I know which ones find 2 step problems in maths hard, who struggles with time and spelling. I don't need a test to tell me that and neither do the kids.

  • Not all exams are well written or organised

The only surprises I've had are the ones where brilliant kids have underachieved because of badly written questions or where a child has got lucky with multiple choice questions (oh yes this did happen - I watched them blindly ticking anything!)

There have been incidents of exams appearing on line and leaked to press and children in tears because of papers that are way too difficult!

  • The tests hold little weight at secondary school

Pupils sit new assessments in Year 7. SATs data from primary school is absorbed into other data at secondary level and teachers generate their own predictions based on their testing.

  • Stress!
Primary school children in England are some of the most tested in the world.

Good teachers go out of their way to make the whole testing experience as stress free and painless as possible but most kids still get very stressed...then underperform... I strongly believe that Primary school children are too young to be tested.

The report, on mental health and wellbeing by the cross-party Education and Health Select Committees pointed to evidence to suggest that academic pressure and the narrowing of the curriculum were having a negative impact on youth mental health.

  • Narrowing of the curriculum

In a report on primary assessment (may 2017) a cross party committee of MPs found that pupils are being taught a narrower curriculum. Schools are neglecting arts and humanities subjects by focusing too heavily on maths and English to ensure pupils pass the SATs.
    ...using Sats results as part of a school’s accountability measures is creating a “high-stakes” system of testing which is damaging teaching and learning in primary schools. - Commons education committee.

  • Love of learning and creativity

I have heard and read several accounts from parents concerned that their child/children are feeling unhappy at school, feeling under pressure, not wanting to go to school. I have heard accounts of parents driving past the school during the weekend and kids announcing, I hate that place or thank god I don't have to go there today! How sad!

Any successful learner has a growth mindset. They have not been taught that learning is about failure and success, but know instead that learning is about progression on a personal journey.

Teach with your heart not to a test or you risk having disengaged pupils and demoralised teachers...

  • You can not apply business principles to people!

It doesn't follow that if we pump the same information in the same way into each child they will all turn out the same results. If you are a parent that will be apparent with your own kids - just look at them. You brought them up in the same house, in the same way, with the same values - are they the same?

You can not treat children like products, or schools like businesses...

People are unique. That is the brilliance of being human, we are unique. We should be celebrating uniqueness and individuality. Encouraging creative thinking. The different thinkers are the ones who change the world, the inventors the scientists the explorers.

  •  SATs do not improve pupils’ learning or raise standards
There is no evidence that the end of Key Stage tests have led to individual pupils reaching higher levels of attainment than they would have done if the tests had not been introduced (Cambridge Primary Review).


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