Fear and Testing in Las Vegas

Today marked the start of SATs fever. Nervous Year 6s ate breakfast gloomily whilst their teachers woke drenched in cold sweat, tired from a night of nightmares, "There were no pencils in the whole school, and I only had 29 papers!".

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why does this time of year cause such stress and anxiety? They are just tests after all. They aren't even that valuable, at least GCSEs stay with you for life. I proudly type 'Drama GCSE A*' on every job application. I sat SATs and can't for the life of me remember what I got.

The results are maligned by Secondary Schools, replaced as quickly as possible by internal testing. They only long-lasting damage...I mean impact... is on the School itself. Teachers fearing for their jobs, fearing for a lack of job mobility, Schools fearing the dreaded Ofsted call. The words 'a dip in results' never carried such dread.

We need assessments. We need to know where are kids are up to, and schools must be held accountable for the progress their pupils make, but the current system is barmy. My good friend Chris Dyson assures me that this year's reading SAT was easier than last years (don't ask me how he knows, I assume some sort of dark magic). I didn't hear the reports of pupils running out in tears like last year. But that doesn't make the current system OK. Making the tests slightly easier than the horrendous testing of the year before is just a ploy to get us to accept the status quo.

At the end of the day, these children are 10 and 11. An 11 Year Old should not be anxious over School work, should not be petrified about their results, should not have to spend months sitting practise papers, all for results that mean very little in the long run.

I don't know the answer, but this isn't it.

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  2. Sadly SATs do affect children and their results can directly affect how they are dealt with in secondary schools. If a child has passed their reading and maths sats (SPAG and writing not used) then there is pressure for secondaries to make sure they go onto pass their GCSEs or risk a negative progress score. These children will be given priority over interventions than their peers who 'failed' their SATs as secondary schools play the progress game . So whilst children will never remember what they got in their SATs, their results will affect how much intervention they may receive at secondary school. *I appreciate not all secondary schools will think like this, but I have been meetings and training where children are talked about as 'key marginals' and this very issue discussed.

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