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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.

Mike


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