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February 12, 2010

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Catharine Withenay

I guess the problem is that not all schools assess the children throughout the year. When my son did his Y2 SATS he wasn't even aware he was doing them (being on the PTA I had heard that it was exam week!) In many ways I think this is the best way to approach any exams - sadly that fails by the end of Y11.

Because our school is low-key about tests and these SATS are principally based upon teacher assessment (and I think my daughter, who is now in Y2, has an excellent teacher) I don't worry about them. In my view it only matters when parents become obsessed with their child's pass/fail/level and force extra work upon the children and/or teacher. I don't care what my daughter gets, in the same way I didn't for my son. I shall be proud of their achievements whatever happens.

I hope that it will make exam papers that inevitably they will have to face later in life a little easier to cope with. That is the positive that I take - the rest of it is crazy!

Nickie @ Typecast

My son has ADHD. He has issues with concentration, his reading age is lower than average, his spelling is abysmal BUT he has made fantastic progress for an un-medicated sufferer. His teacher knows this, his headmaster knows this and I've already addressed a problem that we had regarding homework, the volume of it and the amount of time it was taking each night to get done (guess what - I had a rant on my blog about it!!).

However, he will be "tested" alongside his classmates later this year (he's 10 - these are Yr6 SATs) and they've been having "practice assessments" this week. He's already had to re-sit his reading test because he only got up to Q12 and he was expected to finish the whole paper.

I just don't understand it. He will be assessed again and streamed in high school in September - which, again, won't make a blind bit of difference because he's fantastically clever (mentally) but his ADHD is a barrier to long-term concentration.

Apparently, his school ethos isn't about SATs results, so why has he come home with MORE homework this week (after all the testing each day) and I know he'll be sent home with a revision pack for half term.

I want to stay away from the "eehh back in our day" comment but we did have a choice back then. We didn't have official testing - we were assessed throughout the year, as you mention, and if we were "above average" then we were invited to take the 11+. It wasn't compulsory. Christ on a bike - let them be kids and enjoy learning - don't pressurise them to perform - they'll get plenty of that later in life.

Dan

SAT's are a complete bunch of arse. I will be very tempted to keep Amy off school on the day she is supposed to sit this out of protest.

It is for the benefit of the school and the league table system - not the child.

I am dyslexic, and such tests at my primary school seriously dented my academic confidence. something that it took a long time (and a 1:1 BSc(hons) degree to rectify)

as I said to you on twitter - tell them to stick their bloody tests.

Laura (LittleStuff)

SATS are not intended to assess the child at all for the child's sake. They are purely for the school - so the government can assess the schools competence. The only way they can think of doing this is so test the children to see how well they're learning.
However - the child's results of the SATS follow them. My eldest son suffers from M.E. and has missed much of the last year of school. He is on the 'Gifted & Talented' register, and was expected to perform exceptionally well in his SATS - however he has dropped a lot, as he has missed almost two full terms and a chunk of this one too.
One of the causes of his M.E.? Stress over school work. (NB we have NEVER pressured him, and had no idea he so closely measured himself compared to his peers) He had a meltdown at the last session with his therapist team, saying that he HAD to get back into school, he HAD to do well in his SATS, he NEEDED to get good grades to take to high school... he was just ten at the time.
I was FURIOUS, as this can only have come from the school - and his team have suggested he doesn't take the SATS at all to remove the pressure he is putting on himself.
The school say they don't focus too much on the SATS - but Yr 6 are already sitting test papers.
Thankfully the son in Yr 2 is escaping all the fuss, has no clue what SATS are, let alone that he's sitting them soon, and it's sliding right over his head. Like life mostly does, actually...

Nickie @ Typecast

The thing is Dan, I've tried to tell them to stick their testing (we're now on the third round - my two eldest did theirs years back) and they are compulsory for the school at the moment - and the parents can get fined if they don't comply. There is call for them to be scrapped as, in my opinion, all they prove is that the schools who really push the children are higher up in the league tables - and these are, more often than not, in the more expensive areas, i.e. smaller classes, private education, privileged background (although that could be a sweeping statement - I'm aware of that - I'm generalising). We then move on to the desired schooling, the lying about where you live so that you appear to be in the correct catchment area and it opens up a whole new can of worms.

SATs for Key Stage 3 (age 14) are to be scrapped:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7670635.stm
and there is call for SATs for Key Stage 2 (age 11) to be scrapped too:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/5533422/Sats-for-11-year-olds-to-scrapped-say-Tories.html
I refuse to understand why six year olds have to be put under this pressure. And no matter how you tart it up - teachers saying that they are tested under normal classroom environment, the kids won't know they are being tested - well, that's just balls.

Tara@Sticky Fingers

I have to agree with Dan, they are a bunch of arse.
My son is going through them at the moment (he's 7) and I see absolutely no benefit in them whatsoever other than for the schools.
Utter rot. If the teachers were allowed to spend more time with the children in their charge rather than wading through paperwork the school system would be a much better place.
I'll worry about exams when we need to worry, until then I want him to enjoy school and not be put off by it before he hits 10.

Dan

Really? Fined? I wonder how hard they would try to make that stick.

I was just planning to say she was sick that day.

jay

As an ex-teacher, I can happily say that SATs are indeed a load of c**k. Many of my students stressed un-necessarily over them, often making themselves ill with worry. It IS all about the school "showing that they're doing their bit" and is about very little else.

Can't wait for them to be scrapped, hopefully before mine get to the relevant age.

Nickie @ Typecast

That's what I was told... I'd love to see how they'd make it stick too but I'm not *quite* that brave.

1 Husband, 2 Kids

testing kids at that age is ridiculous. Finland is consistently at the top of international league tables for eduction and kids there don't get tested until their final school leaving exams, and they don't even start school until they're 7. I have two cousins brought up in the Finnish system and they are among the happiest, well educated (and bilingual) and polite teenage boys you will ever meet. Why is it that in a world obsessed with 'sharing best practice' all the actual best practice doesn't get shared, or replicated, because people are obsessed with getting statistics to show how good (or bad) the education system is. Less testing = happier kids.

TheMadHouse

I am with Dan on this too. Arse indeed. Even though Maxi is bright, I dont think that he should have any formal testing and have already said No to any earlier testing. His teacher is fantastic, doesnt agree with SAT's either. The teacher should know how good at things the children are if not then they are not doing their job correctly. And Dan I hope I can be brave enough to keep Maxi off when the week comes

Dan

Well, I have to get that idea past my wife first, who is a but more responsible and less educationally rebellious than me.

Liz (LivingwithKids)

I'm going to swear even more than Dan and say the SATS are complete ***k. Come secondary school application time, they make not a blind bit of difference to which school your child applies for, they haven't made any difference to the literacy standards in this country and they put far too much pressure on kids - it's unbelievably unfair that children should have to be constantly tested in this way and made to feel 'different' (because I promise you, alot of parents talk about the results of the bloody things) at such a young age. All you can do is chill out about it. Good luck!

Dawn Isaac

I'm sure if you polled all parents they would overwhelmingly reject SATS for this age group - yet they're also the first to look at league tables. Hopefully someone will have the courage to scrap them anyway.

However, I am more intersted by all this swearing. I'm sitting here trying to fill in all the *****'s and failing.

Rosie Scribble

I expect they will be scrapped. I understand your point about league tables. I am guilty of looking at them myself, but as far as I know results for Year 2 SATS aren't published. Year 6 results certainly are, ofcourse. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Mahala

I think if you polled teachers (secondary and primary) they would happily see SATS scrapped.

They've already gone at KS3 - after the debacle in 2008 they were scrapped before the 2009 round. Now it's time to follow suit in primary.

Incidentally, no SATs are based on teacher-assessment. They are all marked by outside assessors (who are mainly teachers at other schools). There is no benefit for the child, and very little for the school.

As a teacher, my colleagues and I have long said said that SATs are a terrible way to assess schools or pupils. For the year 6 SATs, so many pupils are coached in preparation for the test, that they often bear no resemblance to the child's true ability. SATs put children under pressure, take away the pleasure of learning and narrow the curriculum.

Teachers are professionals and are perfectly able to assess their students progress within lessons. Indeed, they are required to do so. Outside tests are used by the government and the media to beat schools with, and by the few parents who have not realised how misleading they are (not many these days I don't think) to choose schools which appear to be performing better than others in their area.

SATs take no account of the intake of a school and certainly take no account of value-added, which is a far better assessment of how well a school is performing.

My son starts school in September and if SATs still exist by the time he gets to year 2, I too would be sorely tempted to keep him off school that day.

Mahala

oh, and parents cannot be fined for not sending their children to school on SATs day. I think the school that suggested that has been somewhat "economical" with the truth. Parents can be fined for not ensuring their children are educated, either by educating them at home or by sending them to school. Missing one day will have no comeback on parents. To be fined you would have to be taken to court, and that only happens after the EWO has been involved, helping to resovle attendance issues. The EWO only gets involved when attendance drops below a certian percentage (varies from place to place but schools tend to get anxious when attendance falls below 93-95% and EWO is involved when attendance drops somewhere below 90%.

Magic Mummy

My little girl is 7 so will be sitting her SATs soon as well but to be completely honest I haven't even thought about it.

The posts on here have really made me think and as long as she's happy then I am. She is very outgoing and very bright so I think she'll take them in her stride as she does most things - I am actually a bit curious to see how well she does lol.

We always say to her that as long as she tries her best in whatever she does then we are very proud of her.

Paula

I was under the impression that the yr 2 SATS were going to be scrapped and a very welcome move it would be too. That said, my eldest didn't bat an eyelid about it, only noting that his classroom was arranged 'a bit funny' for the duration.

I agree that it's undue pressure on the teachers who work incredibly hard as it is- I saw that first hand when I spoke to them, and I've even heard of a case at a friend's school where the teacher asked a child to 'alter' his answers a couple of days later. A blatant attempt to skew results or a legitimate recognition that the child knew the answer but was having a bad day? Who knows, but the very fact it happened shows how pernicious the whole system has become.

Barbara

I didn't look at any league tables for primary schools, although I probably will for secondary. I went and looked at the schools and talked to the teachers. Testing 6 year olds is utterly ridiculous and if they're still doing it in 2 years time my daughter is going to have some mysterious illnesses.

Iota

It's because education has gone bananas over the idea of assessment. It's a god that is worshipped above all others. If you can't measure it, it can't be worth doing - that's why PE, music, art, and all those other good basic primary school activities have become such poor relations to reading, writing, maths and science (though of course those are important too).

As you probably know, my husband is a university lecturer, and he has very strong view on assessment in education, and how it impoverishes the whole system. But alas, I don't see it changing in the near future.

Heather

well, what a load of balls that is! Jeez, at 6? Yet another reason to be glad i don't live there. I am sorry to hear that your little one is going to have to go through them, it seems way to much pressure to put them under.

Working Mum

Have to agree with you there. If the teachers are doing their jobs properly (and 99.9% are) then the children are being assessed and encouraged regularly so there is no need to test them. I agree with the comments that they are there to create league tables which, frankly, are pretty meaningless since what really matters is whether each individual child is achieving their full potential. I am so glad that I've never had to do SATs at Key Stage 3 since I've always taught in an independent school and most independents realised how meaningless and time wasting they were and didn't do them (not compulsary for independent schools). In fact, I don't even teach the GCSE at my school, we opted for the International GCSE (not recognised by the Government league tables and not an option for state schools) because educationally it made more sense for our pupils. Why can't governments let schools do what they do best, teach?

Sally Whittle

The lack of standardised testing is a big part of the reason for sending Flea to an independent school.

All the teachers I've ever spoken to (in both state and independent sectors) say that the SATs just result in children being "taught to the test". In other words, they learn what is required to generate a good score on the text, and therefore good ranking for the school.

If a child is struggling to understand something, too bad, the class moves on because you have to cover everything before the test. If a child wants to explore a subject more widely? Too bad, it's not on the test, and therefore not worth learning.

I feel tests in primary schools are entirely pointless and a good teacher who works with a small class size will be able to tell you more than any test could - and regardless of how many people tell you their kids thought the tests were just a bit of fun, as many parents will tell you their kids were stressed and intimidated by them.

When we visited state schools, I asked the head teachers how they felt about the boycotts of SATs that were being proposed by some teaching unions and immediately dismissed any school where the head ruled out a boycott completely because they were supportive of SATs. It just wasn't something I felt comfortable with - and in the end, of course, opted out of state schools entirely.

Crystal Jigsaw

I think they're a waste of time. Children go through enough exams later in their youth and I doubt they need SATS. Just another government cock up as far as I am concerned. I don't know what happens as far as Amy is concerned with her being autistic. Are the government under the impression that children on the autism spectrum will sit still for a certain length of time and answer questions without the assistance from their support teacher? Really, this government need to get a grip and start living in the real world.

CJ xx

Susan Mann

I can't really comment on this, as my kids are too young at the moment and I am not sure you have this in Scotland. I just wanted to say great post and I am loving the debate. xx

Rachelnixon@btinternet.com

My twins, one of whom is autistic will also be sitting them soon despite the fact that both the school and I think they're total nonsense......ridiculous!!! Just try and play it down as much for your girl and look forward to the day when they're abolished!

Sarah Ebner

My daughter did her SATS last year, and although she wasn't phased, I also thought they were a complete waste of time, not least because the school made it very clear that the level given would depend on teacher assessment more than the actual tests. But I have to say she had a great time in Year 2, so I don't think the SATS took over the whole year, as opposed to the ones in Year 6. I don't know many people who think Sats at this stage are a good idea at all....

Deer baby

At my son's school the teachers hate the SATs as much as the parents. It's just jumping through hoops. They really didn't make a fuss at all when he sat them age 7 - we barely knew they were on- but now he's approaching year 6 (age 10/11) they're reading their ugly head again. It's looking likely they'll scrap the lot. I think the NUT are voting soon. But no doubt they'll bring in something else.

maria

All this is so worrying as we are returning to the uk by summer and my son (7 in july) will be thrown in at the deep end in a school system we are not used to. He's started his education in Italy where there is no such thing as SATs and kids get tested officially for the first time at the end of primary school before going to secondary school at age 10/11. Then again schools in Italy are not classified with the same score system, which works much better for everybody. Less pressure on the teachers who can concentrate in teaching freely and especially on the children who are assessed throughout the year without the added stress of an official test.

bonni

Well to answer the question - teachers are just pawns in the grand scheme of vote catching. We hate SATS and league tables and are stuck in a profession that trains us then doesn't trust us.Children are not robots they are our future but as long as politicians use the education system as a vote catcher we are stuck with a stupid system.

Caz

My 6 yesr old is due to take the SATs shortly. I have told the school I am not happy for her to do them especially after seeing some past papers. Unfortunately they basically told me I have no choice. Would not tell me what day she would be sitting them and also told me that if I keep her off they will simply do them with her another time. The reason for this? the school is obligued to complete the test.
What makes it worse is that there is 2 large booklets to complete, one in numeracy and one in literacy which have marks of 40. However the year twos only need 9 out of 40 to pass. Whats the point of denting their confidence by giving a 6 or 7 year old a sum like add 35 + 75 + 3 + 15 =. This is crazy stupidness!! I think its time to kick up a huge fuss with the national newspapers and anyone else who will listen before any of the more sensitive children are scarred for life with feelings of inadequacy!!

Kate

I'm a Year 2 teacher, and have been for some years, so I have administered the SATs with six and seven year olds many times. I actually agree that, as long as the school does proper assessment throughout the year, the tests are not really necessary. However, some of your commenters are not completely informed.

1. There is no test in Science for Y2, only teacher assessment. There is, however, a Science test in Y6.

2. The scores which are sent to the Local Authority for their statistics-crunching are actually the scores based on teacher assessment - although we still have to do the tests, the teacher assessment mark now takes precedence over the test scores. Again, this only applies in Y2. The Y6 papers are marked externally but I mark the Y2 papers in school.

3. Not all Y2 children do all the tests. If I believe, for example, a child will not be able to tackle most of a test paper, I have the discretion to not make that child do the paper.

4. Y2 tests are done spaced out throughout the month of May, generally. They are not like the Y6 tests which have to be done all in one week.

5. To the person who said they are worried because they are coming back to the UK from Italy in the summer and their son will be 7 in July - if you are not coming back until after May, he will have missed the tests anyway. Any children who enter a school after May don't get assessed through SATs and won't count for that school's scores. He will, however, be assessed when he gets to Y6, assuming that SATs haven't been abolished by then!

On the whole we manage to keep the tests pretty low-key in Y2. The writing tasks (there are 2) are just like the ordinary writing tasks we do in the classroom, except the children can't receive any help with them - but I get my class to do unaided writing sometimes anyway, for assessment purposes.

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