Debate: Should SATs be scrapped?
25 March 2008Add to My Folder
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SATs – Stress Activating Time Snatchers, or Sensible Academic Tests of Success? Five of our contributors have their say
Huw Thomas — Headteacher
Of course, if by SATs you mean our current national tests reported on in league tables, then it’s obvious that we should scrap those monstrosities in a big bonfire, and dance around the heaps of burning papers. They are responsible for the reduction of children’s learning, deadening of imagination, corrosion of primary science and the constriction of Year 6.
If, by SATs, you mean a standardised means of keeping a tally on consistent standards, then of course, we shouldn’t scrap them. We should introduce them. The drive to standardise assessment has meant an overall rise in learning, with schools recognising that it’s our job to turn out literate and numerate children.
The problem is that the current tests aren’t SATs. They aren’t actually about assessment. If they were, we wouldn’t boost and cram. We would just assess. By placing so much focus and pressure on that one hideous punishment we call SATs week and then parading schools through the press on the basis of those results, making them the obsession of inspectors, our current system doesn’t assay the abilities of our children.
SATs are good. However, we should get rid of the current bulls**t imitations and introduce some genuine means of assessment.
Sue Cowley — Education writer
My instinctive reaction to this question is ‘Of course’! The amount of testing we inflict on children has the potential to do many kinds of damage. There’s the stress of repeated testing; the loss of self-esteem for less able children who feel they have ‘failed’, and the unnecessary pressure on staff, with all the time and workload implications involved.
Even if teachers avoid the temptation to ‘teach to the test’, they still have to waste time that could more helpfully be spent on learning. It’s questionable whether SATs have any educational value – as the saying goes ‘You don’t fatten a pig by weighing it.’
The amount of testing we inflict on children has the potential to do many kinds of damage (Sue Cowley)
But is this a knee-jerk reaction? Are there any good reasons to hang on to SATs? There is one thing that really annoys me about the officials who run education; something that makes teachers’ lives far more difficult than they have to be. And that’s the constant meddling – the constant changes that are ‘done to’ teachers. The minute we get one new initiative under our belts, another one comes along and we have to change direction yet again.
If SATs were scrapped, this would mean yet another change. So perhaps there’s something to be said for just leaving things alone.
Rosie Warden — Year 4 teacher
SATs – Stress Activating Time Snatchers, or Sensible Academic Tests of Success? Having taught Year 6, my feelings lie strongly with the former. Clearly, it is helpful to have a benchmark to use as a measure of progress, and to compare children during the transition process between Key Stages, but what is wrong with using teachers’ professional assessment against National Curriculum levels?
The Government preaches creativity through ‘Excellence and enjoyment’, but then serves children up with a platter of tedious questions in a hostile environment, which is alien to the multi-sensory group work they are used to. I was told to spend the spring and summer terms going through past papers with children as practice for the tests, and found that they ended up underperforming through boredom.
The other problem is that the scores are used to ‘rank’ schools, though the data does not take sufficient account of value added. Yes, you are able to exempt SEN or EAL children from the tests, but the overall percentages are still calculated on the number of children in the year group. I think most teachers would say SATs are hardly a fair judgement of the hard work that goes on.
Janine Wynne — Year 6 teacher
Although SATs can be stressful and exhausting, I believe that there are some benefits to the current system, both for teachers and children.
The importance of SATs gives a sense of urgency to Year 6, which helps us to focus on raising achievement. Many teachers provide booster and revision sessions to ensure that the majority of children are able to use and apply the skills and knowledge they have learned. Schools often provide additional resources to support teachers during this time.
Some children benefit from the experience of preparing for and sitting SATs. Taking the tests makes them feel important and this can help them to become more mature and responsible. They feel proud of their achievements as they progress towards their target levels.
John Coe — Information Officer for the National Association for Primary Education
Of course we should. Scrap them now said the Heads, the teachers and their assistants, the governors and the parents when they gave evidence to parliament. Only the DCSF (now the DfE) clung stubbornly to the political view that SATs should remain.
Assessing children’s progress? No they don’t, not in any real sense. The tests are a snapshot of performance in a limited range of skills. Children’s learning is far more complex; teachers and parents are much better equipped to assess progress.
The tests are a snapshot of performance in a limited range of skills (John Coe)
Assessing the work of schools? No, the tests are largely a measure of the families served by the school and how well the children have been coached in exam techniques. Including a value added element has failed to improve matters. Schools in disadvantaged communities are still treated unfairly.
Assessing national standards? No, up to a third of the test papers are wrongly marked and so entirely wrong conclusions are too often drawn by government and the media based on the move of as little as one percentage point in the levels recorded nationally.
The SATs are not fit for the important purposes for which they were introduced. Even worse, they are damaging the quality of our children’s education. Scrap them now!