This is not my progressive’s anti SATs blog – I think.

I agree with having tests and see them as a vital part of primary education. As a head I need them to give me a certain picture of performance across my school. I think they are limited though and believe we invest too much in them. I have some questions that I cannot remove from my brain – like stubborn stains they flare up at key times.

I was a teacher in Year 6 for over 5 years and I know what I needed to do to get children through the tests. It was not quality teaching – not as I observe it now (High quality marking, feedback and planning). It was quality cramming, quality revision, quality short cuts, quality squeeze – get them to a certain standard of ‘test taking’ by a certain date and all will be well with the world (applying quite a narrow knowledge base across the test field). No different than getting ready for a driving test. Just because you pass it does not mean you are safer on the roads (And, as we know, many secondary’s contest L4). In the end I came to the conclusion that to get results you need a certain type of teacher with a certain mind set in Y6. I felt that the longer I was there the greater the de-skilling of my teaching talents. This may not be the rule for all schools but it was for me. I used to get by saying, “Oh, in June and July we do really interesting stuff.” As I know now that was about as helpful to the children going into Y7 as shaving their eyebrows and drawing them back on. It synthesised education, plastering over the real need, which was what I should have been doing all year – rigour in key elements of Literacy and numeracy. It is here that my argument rests – How do we get the balance right? Has SATs created this false economy in education? We are so focussed on our schools not looking like a bunch of chumps heading for an almighty Ofsted hiding that we plaster Y6 with one key objective – Operation SATs – Through the Threshold! Let’s face it – you want a good or better Ofsted… get good or better SATs results. This would be written large across Chapter One of ‘The Dummies Guide to Headship’.

It’s a shame because I think it holds us back. This has much to do with trust – or a lack of it between education and politics. Politics cannot leave us alone to decide what knowledge children should know; education cannot agree on what should be known. In fact considering all the new freedoms we are continuously told we have I have never felt more shackled to a narrow SATs based curriculum.

So SATs – what are they good for?

Equal – same test for everybody.

Easy to mark – pretty clear.

Performance feedback.

Promotes accountability.

And the Cons?

That super narrow curricular format.

Teaching to the test at the cost of other knowledge and skills that are important to life on planet earth.

Grade inflation of test scores or grades – secondary’s can be left hung, drawn and quartered here and it does nothing for quality transition and creates myths..

Culturally or socioeconomically biased – the classic being the CAVING reading paper some time ago. I did tweet on Monday:

Potatoes, Octopus, Wolves… Fits nicely with the average south Bristol Y6… #SATS

As much as I joked, context is a factor I believe.

So, over the coming weeks I thought I’d do a few blogs about the subject. About the logic of SATs in our education system and if it was to change – HOW and WHAT?

Bugger… this sounds like the mad ramblings of a progressive!

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