At this time of year there’s always plenty of media interest around SATs exams but this year it’s been made even more prominent by Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement that Labour would scrap the tests if they were in power and introduce a “more flexible and practical” primary assessment system. Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, responded by saying that abolishing SATs would be a “terrible, retrograde step” as they have been “pivotal in raising standards in our primary schools”.
So, I decided to hear the opinions from the year 6 children in one of the schools where I work and there were some interesting views.
One child said that “stress happens – that’s just life and you should get used to it,” – a truly insightful response for someone so young. Life can be stressful and as much as we want to protect our kids we won’t always be able to, so building resilience is extremely important. Another said they enjoyed a quiet classroom for a change – which I thought was quite interesting – and they were happy to have done them as they thought they’d done well. Others looked longer term and believed it may help prepare them for GCSEs. As expected though, there were some children who said they found the whole experience very stressful or daunting and they didn’t think they coped well with being put under such pressure.
Perhaps more remarkable though, was that none of them really knew why they were doing the tests because the results didn’t seem to matter to their own futures; after all they already knew which secondary school they were going to and that they’d all be tested again in their new school. It appears to be much more important to the primary schools themselves and the government than the actual children – which really seems to be the wrong way round.
Although, as a parent myself, I have always considered it important to know how well my children are progressing at school. And it’s one question that I regularly get asked after a PLYTIME Session – “how is my child doing?” or “are they where they should be for their age?” So I think it is important to have a system that monitors progress but at primary age I don’t necessarily believe it has to be a series of formal tests. At PLYTIME we track progress, whilst playing particular games, so that we can gauge how a child is improving and we find it gives a very accurate assessment of performance and relative abilities but the children are completely unaware that we are monitoring them. They just continue to play & be the best that they can be. At the same time playing the games is also building their resilience – they learn to lose, take a hit when an opponent chooses to move them back and don’t always succeed in getting the correct answer in time – all in a safe and friendly environment).
Perhaps that’s the kind of measurement system – one that benefits our children – that we should be promoting in our schools?