Most people are familiar with SATs tests, the milestone assessments that pupils, teachers and schools are judged on and which have a lasting impact on all concerned. What most people who do not work in schools will not realise is what an absolute swizz, travesty and total mockery of education they are.
In these days of performance-related pay (itself an abused and laughable system in schools), teachers are in the awkward position of either inflating levels of achievement in order to get a pay rise, or levelling them honestly and accurately and being accused of a lack of progress. You see, I have witnessed levels being inflated either by a teacher who needs a pay rise, or by a headteacher who will overrule staff because the headteacher needs the data to look pretty to secure their own pay rise. Cash 1, Integrity 0.
One fellow traveller told me his boss took the Year 2 kids into her office and did the tests with them 1:1…needless to say, their results were amazing. You see, you can make up any old levels at Year 2, because nobody from the outside world really checks their legitimacy.
Trouble is, this inflation, like any fraud, has its knock-on effects. Year 6 teachers get nailed by this institutionalized fibbing, because they are judged on whether the kids have made a certain jump between Year 2 and Year 6. For the few areas that still have middle schools, there is no accountability to trace back in their school from Year 6 to Year 2, as they are at a different school for the 2 tests. This means the lower schools know they can put anything down in Year 2 and it won’t be their problem at Year 6.
Every teacher will have had kids come to our class with an alleged level, only to discover they are nowhere near it. Further panic sets in when we look at the level they’re meant to be at by the end of the year. This soon gives way to laughter and a head-shake of resignation…or, after enough years of this, a letter of resignation.
The Year 6 SATs are glorious. Ah, the times I’ve heard someone say, “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for subordinate clauses!”, or “Ooh, I never leave home without pondering which modal verbs I’m going to use today.” If these tests were given to adults, most wouldn’t get above 50%. Yet the educationists have decided 11-year-olds should know it all without a degree.
Yet these tests can make or break a school with Ofsted; they can determine which sets pupils are placed in at secondary school; children that struggle will be obliged to sit for hours on end knowing they have to answer these things, wanting to do their best but having no idea what to do; these endless hours of tests turn even the best students off school and remove the enjoyment of learning; it teaches them the only reason for learning anything is so they can answer questions on it. In short, SATs tests are often corrupt, always stressful for staff and pupils, and always, always against any right-thinking view of how to instil a love of learning in children. Children are merely reduced to numbers. If you’re slow, but can get there in the end, tough – time’s up. If you are fine in lessons but can’t cope well with test situations, tough. You are but mere numbers, kids. Sorry.