SATs Madness/Sadness

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Looking at twitter today and seeing the SATs madness in full effect. Threads of links to activities all for prepping the kids for those tests in the middle of May. Panic strikes, they are happening. They are not going to be cancelled. AAAAAAARRRRRGGGHHH!!!

Why do we do this to children?

Tweets about piles of SATs papers being sent home for children to practice, links to the best revision books, booster classes in full effect in some cases two or three a week.

What is wrong with us?

After the last two years we know that kids may not be where we would want them to be, yet we seem happy to define ourselves against a set of tests. This year is an opportunity for honesty. Just keep teaching using the tests as a measure of where the children are. A litmus test on the impact of the pandemic in our schools. We will all be at different points. That’s OK.

Except that’s not what is happening. For a range of reasons, the pressure is building,

Systemic fear, Ofsted are on the way, internal MAT pressures, Local Authority pressures, our own pride. For a host of reasons, we are all about to jump through the SATS burning hoops. We are a profession driven by accountability and we’re willing to sacrifice the truth for a better test score.

Will the stuff stick? Probably not.

Will it over-inflate where our pupils are at and what they can do? Probably yes.

Will it help us get it right for the children next year and the year after? Definitely not.

Will it create even more distrust in SATs from secondary colleagues? Completely.

I’m not anti- doing the SATs. For the first time I felt they may actually give us something useful, a measure of impact of the last two years. They won’t show us that though. In our panic we’ve decided to throw the baby out with the bathwater and stepped back onto the accountability treadmill.

Just don’t tell me you’re doing it for the children, because the last thing they need is practice SATs and booster classes. What they need is teaching, lots of teaching that doesn’t stop in May.

If we learnt one thing last year when there was no SATs, its that children were more ready for secondary and that pupils didn’t drop off after the arbitrary line.

Prep them a little around how the tests work. Then let what will be, be. Ultimately for the children an honest set of results will be more helpful to them.

SATs are the most important they’ve ever been this year for the children but not in the way we imagine.


My Twitter Relationship is on the Rocks

When I first started tweeting in 2015 it was done as a shout out to have a voice. There was a lot of frustration. As a head of a small coastal primary, the world of education was happening to me, and I was literally voiceless.

In retrospect I wish I’d given myself a better name, @smithsmm is a rubbish twitter name. I could have been @CoastyHead or @Rantyhead.

 Twitter allowed me to do two things, firstly share my passion for picture books. #PicturebookPage has literally hundreds of books posted on the hashtag. Secondly to have a voice on education, to challenge, discuss and learn from others. It was exciting and clandestine.

There were moments where I would be swarmed on by Dementors, I learnt very quickly to not talk phonics on Twitter mainly because you’d be launched on by secondary Maths’s teachers who’ve taught nobody to read but know how to do it better than anybody else. I remember very early on being attacked for mentioning picture books, this was by some very prominent #edutwitter voices and then their followers, I invited them to come, and I’d explain them to them, I held my own, but the experience left me shaken. I almost walked away at that point. The same people 7 years later still do the same thing, regularly shouting down others and belittling them.

I avoided challenging; I kept my head down. I found some like-minded people; some people were massively supportive. I enjoyed talking with them.

 I started to have confidence in my voice, enthused by this I decided to blog.

Now let’s be clear I’m not a writer, the anxiety of writing stuff and putting it out has often been overwhelming. Every time I write I am swamped by imposter syndrome. However, I persevered. I wrote things and no-one read them and that was OK. Writing was ultimately for me. 

I enjoyed writing, I enjoyed twitter. I got opportunities. I was asked to write some pieces for the TES (never thought that would happen). I presented at Learning First and ended up between Michael Tidd (a twitter superstar) and Dame Alison Peacock. I had some jokes, more importantly I felt like I had a voice. I met some good people.

I rolled with it, I found my tribes, I muted then blocked some of the voices. I got to do more stuff, including a keynote at @PrimaryRocks1 with @ChrisDysonHT.

Twitter was a good place and a nice part of my life. Then March 2020 hit. Twitter was a saviour in the early days of the pandemic, however…

The last two years have led to a life that has been increasingly lived online. I sit back and look at how in some-ways my online life has begun to dominate my real life and I realise I need to “Get Busy Living”

Twitter is for me is no longer a torrid love affair.

This isn’t a goodbye but it is a see you around. A re-balance. More time looking up and less time looking down.