SATS: One Parent’s Dilemma
English children are now the most heavily tested in the world – and a revolt is building within weeks of the Year 2 and Year 6 SATS. As a parent with children in both these year groups, and a natural dislike of meaningless tests, what do I do?
I share all the frustrations of the parents who are behind these various calls to arms. It’s time that parents spoke out against the theft of their children’s childhood. But at the same time I have been researching the consequences of boycotting tests in Year 6. This is where it gets tricky.
My understanding from talking to teachers (and bear in mind the government guidelines change all the time) is that the Year 6 SATS is now based on reaching an ‘expected standard’ or not, rather than a child reaching a particular level according to how well they have done. So this test is now a pass or fail.
And, just as crucially, according to the teachers I have spoken to this expected standard has been hiked up for writing from the old level 4b to a 4a/5c (even though the government argues it is still a 4b). This is a very significant increase. There are predictions that between 40 to 50 per cent of children will not reach this level – in other words they will in effect fail the SATS. And – I only found this out recently - they will actually have to retake them in secondary school. How great for confidence is that?
Students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds will of course be hardest hit as usual, because the new Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar test (SPaG for short) is needlessly difficult. These schools will be extremely vulnerable to OFSTED inspections, interventions and ultimate academisation.
When I heard all this I was outraged, and felt I would boycott the tests because I did not want to risk my child failing them – in particular the SPaG. But then I found out that if a child is absent for the test, the school STILL gets marked down.
My children’s school is in a leafy and affluent area, and I suspect that most children - for all the usual socio-economic reasons - will do well. That said, I was told that if just 10 students out of a year group of 60 are absent, it will have a very serious effect on the school’s floor standard and therefore overall SATs score, with all the usual soul-destroying implications…
So what do I do? I have huge respect for my school’s teachers, who have done everything they can in both Year 2 and Year 6 to make the SATS as non-invasive as possible into my children’s education. I know how rare this is these days.
I have also spent the last six years telling my children how pointless most tests are.
You have to remember that the 11 Plus was got rid of all those years ago because there was consensus that you could not judge a child’s “intelligence” at the age of 11. And now we have SATS at exactly the same age, and research too suggesting that they are a poor prediction of how children will do at GCSE.
(The other thing that parents are not always aware of is that most secondary schools do their own testing in Year 7, so there is no need to do SATS too.)
Finally, even if there were strong calls for parents to boycott Year 6 SATS, I fear that message would not reach all parents. Not everyone is online and reading papers all the time. The very communities that are most likely to be unfairly hit by the tests being made more difficult are the least likely to find out about any boycott.
My worry is that even if a majority of parents in any given school boycott Year 6 SATS, the test scores from the minority that do will still be taken seriously by the government. A shocking league table fall will follow…I have therefore reluctantly decided at the moment to put my Year 6 child in for SATS.
As for my Year 2 child, I have not yet figured out what to do. Year 2 results do not impact on the overall league table. But, that said, we live in such punitive times educationally, that I worry that any apparent dip in the data that seems now to define education might trigger an unwelcome interest from outside. Am I being paranoid? I would love to hear what others think, particularly headteachers. My instinct is to not do anything that would damage my local school.
On balance, perhaps it is best to butch out both these ridiculous tests and wait for the uproar in July. That’s when thousands of 11 year olds are told they are failures. That’s the moment to start fighting for SATS to be eliminated from the classroom altogether.
This article also appears on the facebook page for the new parents’ campaign group, Rescue Our Schools: https://www.facebook.com/RescueOurSchools/
@RescueSchools Website: www.rescueourschools.co.uk