SATs: Friend or Foe?

This blog post asks ‘What is the point of SATs?’
It has been written by experienced KS2 teacher Zoe.

Unsurprisingly, there has been a lot of debate around SATs this past week as a result of Corbyn’s announcement at the NEU conference that Labour would scrap the KS1 and KS2 tests.

SchoolsWeeks had a balanced article about the proposal and Kevin Courtney (joint general secretary of the NEU) and Nick Gibb (Tory MP and minister for schools) both had thoughts on it as well.

Where do you sit on this? I’d be very surprised if it was ‘on the fence’. When it comes to our children’s education, the stakes are too high to feel ambivalent about topics like this.

Personally? I’ve seen the stress and upset that SATs can cause and cannot see how it is worth it. A crude tool to measure school performance which has a significant impact on intake, these tests elevate the importance of maths and English objectives from the national curriculum to the detriment of all the others.

sad SATs

When I talk about the NC maths and English objectives, for those of you who aren’t primary teachers and may not know, I’m not talking about the basics of how to ‘“read, write and add up”. No, I’m referring to the expectation that ALL 11 year olds should be able to multiply and divide fractions, convert between miles and kilometres as well as understand and use relative clauses, fronted adverbials and spell words like necessary, accommodate and privilege.

Why are these skills prized above being able to build a simple mechanism or understanding and creating simple code so they are prepared for the world they are growing up in?

For starters, do advocates of repeated testing honestly believe that this ensures it gets taught effectively? This brings to mind a favourite phrase introduced to me by my mother, “Weighing the pig doesn’t make it fatter.”

pig piglet

And if someone did believe in this, well then why aren’t they pushing for children to be tested on how well they can articulate their feelings? On their understanding of how to learn and celebrate the similarities and differences between people? On their collaboration skills? On their resilience?

One of the reasons I’m so passionate about Kapow is that the focus is entirely on subjects that are often the first to be sidelined. The knowledge and skills developed through these subjects is crucial and yet they can often be forgotten or drowned out.

The collaborators who wrote the lessons and created the videos for Kapow love their subjects. To them, their subject is an integral part of everything else we learn and do and they have proven time and again its importance. What Kapow is trying to achieve is to instill that same passion in every teacher, as well as giving them the knowledge and skills to elevate teaching and learning in their classroom, inspiring progress and huge engagement from the children.

It seems like there is a lot of talk but no action for the areas of education that will only become more important as technology advances. Creativity is vital and if all we’re doing is cramming facts, figures and processes into children’s heads rather than the tools and inclination to think for themselves, it doesn’t inspire much hope for the future.

Saying this, I still have hope. This is based on the incredible individuals teaching our children, bringing learning to life, refusing to let SATs dampen the passion they have for making a difference to our future generations. I also have hope because of these amazing children. With every great teacher, a fiery spark is planted in each child they teach.

school child

Let’s make it easier and not harder for teachers to do the incredible job they do. Our future depends on it.

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