Last night I came into contact for the first time with the crazy, confusing and I have to say slightly-ridiculous-in-my-humble-opinion world of SATS. In case your child is not yet old enough, these are the Standard Assessment Tests which the Government requires every child to take at the end of year 2, year 6 and year 9.
My daughter is six years old. She will be sitting her first SATS test next month and will sit the rest in May. She will be tested in reading, writing, mathematics and science and will be given an overall score which, I am told, is used to show her progress compared with other children born in the same month.
Did I mention that she is just six years old?
Several of her peers will also be sitting the tests aged six; the rest of the class will be seven. A couple of the children will be four months off their eighth birthday, such is the variation in ages and also in abilities that is representative of many primary school classes, I expect.
In my opinion, this is just two young, yet there must be some reason why the Government has made the decision to test children at such a young age, although I am not sure what it is.
Here's my view on SATS based, obviously, on just one child. Other parents may have different opinions.
IJ enjoys school. She has a fabulous male teacher (rare in primary schools these days) and frequently comes home with exciting stories about her day. She is happy and settled.
She has been with the same teacher for two years. He knows her extremely well and has seen her grow in confidence during the time she has been with him. She initially found a lot of the school work difficult and has required some extra help to catch up with her peers. She seems to have taken a little longer than the average child in meeting her developmental goals, but she is getting there steadily and the gap between her performance and that of her peers is slowly closing.
Even thought the SATS tests will be kept very low-key at her particular school, I've seen the SATS papers and there is no mistaking that they are formal assessments even if IJ does not realise she is being formally tested. I will not put any pressure on her and neither will the school but she will still be expected to sit down in relatively strict exam conditions. They will have to sit in silence, they have to attempt to complete all answers on the paper within a specified time limit, and they are not allowed to ask the teacher for help.
My point is this: Her school assesses each child throughout the year. Each child's progress is already tracked, they are each set targets based on their individual abilities which they work towards and their progress is constantly monitored. This flags up those children who need extra help and they are offered extra support in smaller groups. It is recognised that each child develops at their own pace and that with the right encouragement they are all able to make progress.
So if schools are already assessing children, tracking their progress and setting targets which are regularly reviewed throughout the year, then why do we need SATS? Why put further pressure on teachers when they already have time-consuming assessments procedures in place which are effective, and why formally assess children so young? They will face enough tough academic assessments throughout their academic life - why start testing them at six years old?