Saturday, 17 May 2008

The SATS scrap...or...Scrap the SATS

2 days of English testing, 2 days of Maths testing and 1 day of Science testing.
IS didn’t shed any tears – as children in her class did – and IS didn’t have any sleepless nights – as some children did: however we did have FIVE difficult months.
What’s gone on?
SATS finished this week.
SATS are over for this year.
SATS are over forever for IS.

It seems that a chasm has developed between this government’s education ministers – Ed Balls, Jim Knight and Beverley Hughes – and this country’s educationalists. Jim Knight proclaims, “SATs are there to give pupils an understanding of how they're doing nationally, to give parents the opportunity to see how well their child is doing and how well the school is doing, and for the public to see how well schools generally and how the school system as a whole is performing." SATs results are part of the targets that the Government expects schools to meet, and which are published, and then ranked, by the media, into "league tables". Government-speak clearly translates into the government being driven by the misguided and obsessive ‘target’ culture.

But the tide is turning.

The tests have been slammed by everyone from politicians to children’s authors such as Philip Pullman, Michael Rosen and Jacqueline Wilson.

An influential teaching body, The General Teaching Council, attacked the government's policy of rolling out national testing of children from the age of seven - it says “the stress from over-testing is tainting perceptions of education” and it is calling for all national exams to be abolished for children under 16. The council says exams not only fail to improve standards, but also leave pupils demotivated and stressed.

Leaders of the National Association of Head Teachers are calling on the Government to scrap the tests on the grounds that the pressure of league tables is forcing schools and teachers to stay at the top of league tables by routinely "drilling" pupils to pass exams and is consequently putting children off learning.

The Cambridge-based academic Professor Robin Alexander has been studying the testing regime in England's state primary schools, the most exhaustive in the Western world. He says, “People do not like ‘high stakes testing’, with its league tables in the press and all the pressure that goes with that . . . I think there is a pretty clear consensus that change is needed...the evidence is so strong . . . it points in the direction of radical reform.”
And if tests are scrapped, how will parents know how well their children are doing, or which are the best schools? “There are Ofsted school inspection reports,” says Alexander, “Parents can read those.”
Alexander’s final report is due out at the end of the year.

Scotland never introduced Sats.
In Wales SATs were scrapped in 2004.
When will England follow?

Our daughters go to a terrific local state school with great teachers and support staff and a marvellous Head Teacher, GB. Yet the constraints of the system mean that IS's class has seemingly done little since January beyond preparing for these narrow tests.
Compelled to regurgitate much of the English, maths and science they have been force fed in the past three years, these little automatons musn’t let the side down; yet they will gain no marks for sharing how much they enjoyed the few books they were able to read for fun, nor their delight at discovering a germinated sunflower seed, nor the sense of achievement from learning the importance of angles in a triangle.

Let the children have a more relaxed environment to learn and enjoy their subjects and plough the cost of SATs into supporting learning and teaching and trust teachers to assess their children regularly

A couple of months ago Mrs R was standing outside school and happened to talk to Head GB about the ongoing preparation for SATS. Mrs R thought that it might be a good idea that IS went ill over the week of SATS and very symnpathetically GB replied that that was our right if we so felt.

Then Mrs R turned to GB, “, G, what do you really think of SATS?”
G thought carefully, looked Mrs R dead in the eye and lowered his strong Welsh voice, “Bollocks!"

If you feel inclined please sign this parent-led petition on the Downing Street website: PETITION

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