The SATs in shambles

keep-calm-and-do-well-in-sats-5If you have been reading my blog posts on SATs, you will know that I think they should be stopped. This was because they are unfair and unnecessary, in my opinion. However, things seem to have gone from bad to worse this year.

This year’s SATs for 11+ students had GCSE-level questions in them! If that was not enough, the National Union of Head Teachers has written to Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, asking her to ‘hold off’ publishing the results of the test to avoid a slump in results that would make comparing schools a very risky business. For high-calibre pupils preparing for North London collegiate or Haberdashers (like some state school children do), the SATS tests will be at the right level of difficulty. However, not all children are at that standard which must be taken into account, especially if these children do not receive any tutoring outside school.

High-level people in the government who make these decisions may send their own children to high-level schools, and so they have no real-world, on-the-ground perspective on the matter. They have a disconnect from reality and think all children are prepared the same.  I am certainly not criticising the teaching in state schools but I think the government must think again about the load on these excellent teachers, keeping in mind how many varied students they have, the syllabus they have to teach and the time they have to teach the topics being tested!

The fact that schools this year not had enough time to prepare their students in the new curriculum on which they were tested, shows just how arbitrary and meaningless the tests have become. I really wish the government would just leave education alone for a while, and let schools and teachers get on with what they are good at: teaching.

The online Oxford Dictionary defines teaching as “impart knowledge to or instruct (someone) as to how to do something”. So if the government is not allowing teachers to either impart knowledge in general or instruct students in how to pass tests, then they are not honouring the duty of care they have towards educating the next generation of the nation’s children.

If the government is always changing the goalposts, how can we hope to improve standards or even know where we stand, when the criteria are constantly changing? The SATs this year have increased the difficulty level of questions in a bid to ‘raise standards’, they have changed grading schemes and modified exam specs.

When Nicky Morgan made a complete U-turn last month about the blanket conversion of schools to academies, she said that only “under-performing” schools would be forced to change to an academy status. Is the incredibly difficult level of this year’s SATs a way to make sure that more schools under-perform? I would say that it is a very dodgy coincidence.

The Education Ministry is dragging the quality of education down, and making the change even less transparent by removing compulsory parent seats from school governing boards. Making teachers and head teachers responsible for impossibly high rates of performance in students makes them even more pressured about getting students to pass tests, rather than focussing on the all-important work of education.

I firmly believe we over-test in schools these days, especially with regards to younger children. As a tutor, I am shocked at the utterly useless technical vocabulary 10-year olds are supposed to need for grammatical analysis. Some of it is more in keeping with what Oxbridge graduates, let alone GCSE students, need to know. This year’s SAT reading tests have been one of the hardest ever, with even ‘bright’ pupils being unable to complete them. What happens then to the middle and low achievers? They are left behind and demoralised, sometimes for life, simply because of an unfair and unjust testing system. Is this what we want for most children in the country? How can we bring about a change in this faulty philosophy? I am open to suggestions.

What do you think about the SATs and the government’s agenda? Let me know your thoughts – I am eager to hear from you.