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Sats and other tales

anastasia de waal, 7 May 2010

Once upon a time…

…In a charming classroom not so long ago, there was a happy teacher and a class of content 10-year-olds.  Together, they read books from start to finish, empathising with dutiful characters and spurning the villainous.

 Under the wing of a kind and trustworthy headteacher, these children excelled in their studies; their teachers maintained a clear perspective of their outcomes and had high hopes for their futures. That was until, on a dark and rainy night, a wicked master and his loyal inspectors usurped their authority. Ruling from his throne in the constituency of Morley and Outwood, he continues to replace storybooks with tick-boxes and prioritises league tables, not times tables.

For the literary proficient amongst us, the Sats boycott threatening to wreck havoc next week with a hung parliament is comparable to many a familiar fairytale (though we haven’t reached the ending and we’re yet to be rescued).  For year 6 classes deprived of a concentrated and comprehensive education, an analogy drawing on the popular programme ‘X Factor’ possibly resonates a little better: a contest between hedteachers, governors and the wicked master. Fingers on buzzers.

It comes as no surprise, then, that prolific children’s authors are backing the boycott, adding substance to claims made by the NUT and NAHT that Sats tests ‘disrupt the learning process for children in year 6 and are misused to compile meaningless league tables which only serve to humiliate and demean children, their teachers and their communities.’ Led by the former children’s laureate, Michael Rosen, over 100 authors have collectively issued a statement declaring that ‘reading for pleasure is being squeezed by the relentless pressure of testing’ and that they are ‘particularly concerned that the Sats and the preparation for them are creating an atmosphere of anxiety around the reading of literature.’

It is unclear how many schools will be snubbing the assessments, but, estimates suggest up to 900 primary schools will be open for business as usual. That leaves a lot of children across the country trying to make sense of the seemingly pointless preparation they’ve completed.

Surely teachers’ concerns that these children will be left demoralised are only testimony of a flawed curriculum and means of monitoring it.

My only memories of sitting year 6 Sats tests, now distant and sketchy, involve misspelling ‘mysterious’ and being prompted to reconsider my answer to 4a in my maths paper by an anxious teacher.  Had I been spared the displeasure of sitting these exams, I like to think I wouldn’t have given up on the education system altogether.  However, with the Tory’s running taking over the show, Labour loitering behind and the Lib Dems playing piggy-in-the-middle, revising these tests should become a top priority once parliament has sorted itself out.

Annaliese Briggs


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