There must be a better way than SATs!
The military operation that is SATs is over and I for one is very glad.
I remember as a head of myself, that they build up to the week of SATs, was always a bit nervy mainly because we had to make sure that the papers were all locked away and that the classrooms were removed of any help children could glean during the various tests they were going to sit. We also ran the risk of having a visit from the Local Authority to double check that we were following the very strict rules and that none of our children was being given any help at all to earn points that didn’t come from their own ability.
This week I went to a school to carry out that moderation. I was that person checking that the papers were all securely locked away. I was also the person who moved through the classrooms of silent children working as hard as they could, to check that the environment was completely bland and very very bare. Teachers spend hours making their learning environments bright and engaging but for SATs it felt like a prison.
I was also there to check that once the test had been completed, the papers were then carried down with an escort and put into alphabetical order before being put into the required brown sack.
I refer to it as a military operation but actually, it’s a campaign. A campaign that starts before the children get to Year 6 but certainly, from that first day in September, they know that they are heading for a test and that everything they do from that point will be geared to it. It was obvious to me yesterday that some of the children felt under some pressure. One pupil cried at the end of the arithmetic paper. It was so sad to see him so upset and hopefully, he will get the results that he deserves. For me, it was very frustrating when I looked at a paper showing the pupil had mistaken a subtraction sign for division and had filled their paper with a very complicated calculation.
I’m not going to get into the rights and wrongs of SATs testing because all our children deserve an equal standard of education. However, SATs has developed into an ogre and this cannot be healthy for our children, teachers or parents. I realise that the reason for its power is what happens with the results of judgement on schools but there must be another way.
Bring back creativity
For me as a retired headteacher, I am saddened to see a whole year group under such stress and I know that there will be a great big sigh of relief and many Year 6 pupils will be spending more time playing. The teachers will still have the pressure of waiting for the results to come in. For me, I find the whole experience so depressing. I run 100 Word Challenge which is a free online writing project for young people under 16. Since Christmas, the number of students taking part has rocketed but sadly few of them have come from the UK. Teachers in our schools here find that they are under such a lot of pressure to teach the various components of writing including grammar, (some of which I don’t understand at all! ) because they are the elements that will be tested. They don’t have a test for creative writing so the many teachers don’t feel that they are able to devote any time to my little writing project, much though they may want to.
A recent report from a cross-party Commons Select Committee looking at primary assessment said:
One issue with the writing assessment is the focus on technical aspects, like grammar and spelling, over creativity and composition. We are not convinced that this leads directly to improved writing and urge the Government to reconsider this balance and make spelling, punctuation and grammar tests non-statutory at Key Stage 2.
I was delighted to get this validation for letting young people use their imaginations and just write.
I know the benefits that so many children have had from joining 100WC. They have just 100 words to respond to a prompt and can interpret it in any way they want. This is then shared across the world which gives them a purpose as well as an audience. It also gives them a sense of value in a subject that for many they find really confusing and often boring. They regard themselves as authors.
Have your cake and eat it!
Over the next few weeks, I hope that teachers in the UK, particularly those involved in Year 6 will relax and enjoy being teachers again. I hope you will take a step back and look at how you can have your cake and eat as far as writing goes and join 100WC. By using 100 Word Challenge to practice the other elements, you can make sure that creativity is nurtured and that writing has a reason other than SATs to exist!
Do you need help balancing creativity with SATs? Leave me a comment below