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Should SAT’s be SAT?

Should SAT’s be SAT?

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This is a tough choice now for some Headteachers with union boycotts of this term’s tests. Having attended the NAHT conference and had discussions with the NGA, I know they’ve made much use of advice lines.

I’ve always liked the Standard Attainment Tests for pupils after being on first the inside and now the outside of school life.  Maybe it’s because my mathematical nature simply enjoys the potential for statistics it offers; maybe it’s because I spent many hours learning mark schemes and tormented over a pupils intention, rather than their actual answer; or perhaps my involvement in creating some of the papers themselves influenced my belief in their rigidity.  Whatever, I found the results really useful.  As a teacher they are an accurate measure (not for every pupil but for most), there is no need to spend hours (and I assure you they take hours) creating a near perfect test and there is no need to mark them, although the completed tests come back for analysis and feedback to pupils.  They are a powerful way to standardise levels of attainment nationally and across a year group.

No longer teaching, I still value the results.  I want to know when and how much I need to support my children in their education.  Are they ok or are they struggling?  Can we leave them to learn or is there a dip that needs our attention?  The school report tells me they are trying hard and they have lots of friends and can be trusted to return the register to reception.

But I’ve misunderstood this in the past.  I’ve asked this year for an attainment level as well and will find the teacher assessment and the national comparison useful to know how much academic support I need to offer.

I understand that letting SATs take over the months leading to the tests can put unnecessary pressure on children, teachers and schools. But then that’s not the test that does this, it’s the system we allow ourselves to create around them.  League tables being possibly the most contentious.  But as part of my parental assessment of a school, I use the tables as a single snap shot measure.  I appreciate it’s not always a great one (especially for a primary school with a small roll), but together with a visit to the school it’s all I really have if I’m not to rely on hearsay or marketing.

As a Governor, and as part of a Governing Body, I know we will meet to analyse SATs results and teacher assessments together. We’ll look at all the statistical data that RAISEonline allows and listen to the Head teacher’s explanations as we struggle a little to interpret them!  But as a collective we will determine some of the future strategies the schools needs to progress as a result.  That national statistical reference point, for me, is essential.


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  • Martyn Dews
    Posted at 09:57h, 07 May Reply

    I agree with your words above. Like it or not, tests are needed as we need to know how pupils and indeed teachers are performing. It seems clear that SAT will not continue in their current format but I agree that the downfall was how the results were used and it is this that placed pressure on HTs, then Teacher, then pupils to perform to the test. It does not encourage good practice and hence teachers “teach to the test”, in many cases anyway.

    I have to say that as I governor of a small primary school, I have been disappointed with the lack of support and confusing information that has been coming out. Most of the information I had seen, I have had to go out and find. This should not be the case.

    We shall see what happens over the coming months what the government will do, when indeed we get a government. Somehow, as important as this is to HT, governors, parents and pupils, I feel this is not a priority for the politicians at the moment. 🙂

    On final point I’d like to make is that when a decision is made, it has to be done with the least disruption to the children, as I feel the whole boycott issue has mucked them about somewhat.

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