You may be aware that there is considerable controversy and divided opinion about the Key Stage 2 tests, popularly known as SATs. I have decided that pupils at Moortown Primary School will sit the tests this year. It has been a difficult decision to make; this is how I’ve made it.
Arguments against SATs
This year, it’s estimated that up to 50% of headteachers in Leeds plan to boycott the SATs as part of their union’s campaign to have them abolished.
Those against SATs argue that the tests:
- are poorly marked and therefore an inadequate measure;
- measure a child’s performance as a ‘snapshot’ on one particular day and therefore fail to take into account the child’s wider performance;
- skew the primary curriculum so that the child’s final year at school is taken over with SATs preparation;
- the data from SATs is presented to the public in league tables which hide a school’s real effectiveness (for example, a school in a deprived area might be very successful in teaching children in that the children make great progress, whereas a school in a well-off area might have a children who start school already above national expectation and make little progress, and that progress may be as much due to private tuition than effective teaching).
The NAHT union favour some sample testing of schools (which, from this year, will happen in Science assessment) – a sample selection of schools would be chosen to provide some form of performance measure of schools nationally.
In my experience, it’s true that the tests are often poorly marked. I know this because when the tests are returned to school, I thoroughly re-mark them. Last year, two children’s levels were successfully upgraded as a result of errors I found in the marking. Poor marking is an issue which needs to be addressed, but in the meantime, by re-marking in school, the levels which children at Moortown eventually receive are accurate.
The tests do indeed measure just a snapshot. We must all be very clear about this. However, the alternative can be vague. If we don’t have externally marked tests, we rely on teacher assessment. Whilst this is good, it can vary considerably from school to school and teacher to teacher. I believe we need both. I also believe the teacher assessment should have a greater importance – perhaps being combined with the SATs score to give a balanced overall level for a child’s attainment.
In many schools, SATs preparation takes over the curriculum. This does not happen at Moortown. This year, Miss Kieran and the Year 6 class have enjoyed two engaging, creative topics (Meet the Greeks and Snowbound) – you only have to read their views in the Year 6 Forum to know that the children have been enthusiastic and positive. In addition, there have been drama projects, food-tasting, sporting events – the rich and varied curriculum that is what makes Moortown a happy and healthy place to learn.
I believe it is the league tables that should be abolished, not the SATs outright. SATs have contributed to raising standards in the past. I am happy for SAT data to go to the local authority, the government and to Ofsted so that a school’s performance can be measured. However, the data should be considered along with many other important, contextual factors. League tables are poorly understood and do not help parents / carers to make informed decisions. Parents / carers tell me that they base their decisions as to which school their child should attend on many criteria – very few mention league tables. At Moortown Primary School, most people are attracted by its size, its atmosphere and its reputation which goes from strength to strength.
As always, please contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns. In the meantime, good luck to all our Year 6 children – they must be congratulated for their excellent year so far.