“SATs, huh, good god
What are they good for
Absolutely nothing, Say it again”
My new Karaoke Anthem.
Actually that’s wrong. Well designed assessment at the end of phases of education should be incredibly useful. Assessment that supports a childs transition from one phase to the next and supports the next teacher or school in getting it right for the pupils. Assessment that clearly passes on information about what a child can and can’t do and the next steps.
Sadly SATs does none of those things. SATs are a measure of schools not pupils, the pupils seem to be the least important aspect of the process. Most secondary schools will say “Well they aren’t there now!” when they look at a pupils SATs results. Undoubtedly that’s true in the same way that if my son had taken his GCSE’s in September he would definitely have not got the grades he got in May.
Many schools feel they are being driven to prep…prep…prep for the test. Some schools going as far as to say that they’ll be doing weekly SATs tests to parents as if it’s a good thing. The high stakes nature of the tests is equally driving a narrowing of school curriculum. I firmly believe that if you stop teaching children stuff and narrow your curriculum then actually you’ll damage children’s chances of achieving in the Reading test as it is currently designed.
Whilst I applaud Ofsted and Amanda Spielman when they talk about curriculum, this is an add on. (Pretty sure if your SATs results are poor that’ll still define your judgement) I also know as a school in challenging circumstances rightly or wrongly the dice are stacked against us with regards to Ofsted, it is a fact that a greater percentage of schools with challenging catchments are rated ‘Inadequate’ or ‘Requires Improvement’. Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees when you’re staring down the barrel of a data shotgun.
Now don’t mistake this for me being anti-SATs or testing because I’m not. Don’t think this is me making excuses for low expectations because I’m not. My school was well above national last year and will be in line this year. We believe children should be Literate and Numerate they are core to what we do in our school.
What I am against is the high stakes accountability that comes from SATs. I’m against how SATs are used to measure schools. This does two things, it drives school to focus on them particularly if you are in a challenging space, it also creates an unbalanced playing field. (After school booster/ holiday boosters/ Saturday boosters). Prep, Prep, Prep…this makes measuring one school against another pointless.
It’s also fair to say some schools will do well regardless of the teaching whilst others will have to move mountains to do well. I’ve worked in both kinds of school. In the first we’d get 85-90% just by the children turning up, in the other we had to really teach.
What I am sick of is the sham that has been Assessment for the past 2 years at the end of KS2. I won’t rant about it here I’ve already ranted enough about Writing and the Interim Assessment Framework (ITAF). I won’t use the word cheating with regards to this but I think we can agree not all schools are playing the same game or in some cases even on the same field. That’s before I even get going on the impact it’s having on writing. Some schools are not even getting the same guidance.
Here are my previous Writing rants.
This year to add to what can only be described as the absolute shambles that the new SATs have been we have the marking of KS2 SATs, especially the GPS paper. That many teacher’s and headteachers have spent their valuable weekend time looking to see if their pupil’s papers have been marked correctly is frankly appalling. The biggest issue is the inconsistency of the marking and the pernickity-ness (I like that word) of the mark scheme.
This is before we even get to the car-crash that will be “2020 SATs and the impossibility of progress” (not keen on the new Harry potter book)
The Independent Assessment review group set up by the NAHT suggested some interesting ways forward both on testing but also on the idea of high-stakes accountability. Sadly I don’t think many have read it. I think its worth a read. Their six guiding principles may give us a start point for getting it right.
- Assessment is at the core of good teaching and learning
- Statutory assessment should be separated from ongoing
assessment that happens in the classroom
- Data from statutory assessment will never tell you the whole
story of school effectiveness
- The statutory assessment system should be accessible to
pupils of all abilities and recognise their progress
- Progress should be valued over attainment in
- The number of statutory assessments in the primary phase
should be minimised
So I don’t really have any solutions to this mess but I know we need to stop and rethink. We are currently heading down a blind alley and we need to admit it’s wrong and do something about it.
We need this to be the key question
“How can we make statutory assessment help children on their learning journey?”
It seems sadly the children’s learning part has been completely forgotten.