When SATs were first introduced it was with the aim that a Level 4b would be an ‘average’ level of achievement. Very quickly this became an expected level of achievement for the majority of pupils and now it would seem that anyone falling below this (or its point score equivalent) is a failure. In order to address this failure, children will now be expected to resit the tests in Year 7. It’s a policy of such bum numbing stupidity I can barely be arsed to write.
1. Year 6 teachers bust a gut to get kids through these tests. Sometimes in order to do it, they compromise the rest of the curriculum, pass out endless practice papers and teach to the test to the extent that they dream the test (in the rare moments they get to escape from their marking). They have their class all day every day. If they can’t get them through, then how a Year 7 English teacher seeing them a couple of times a week is supposed to do better I have no idea. Oh, wait…perhaps the kids will be taken out of Art, Music, PE….
2. Most of the kids who achieve (and yes, for many of them it IS an achievement) a Level 2 or 3 in the tests have statements of special educational needs. As I understand it, they won’t be required to resit. Instead, the sliver of children sitting in the middle will now be put into a new group or set “not special, just thick” and asked to do the test again. Before the supporters of this policy (the ones who managed to read past the word arse without fainting) charge me with the sin of facetiousness, calling children “mediocre” as Morgan did, is pretty much labelling them as thick. What happened to growth mindsets eh?
3. There is no evidence that testing children again and again improves their performance when the stakes are high. There is some evidence that low stakes classroom based tests aid learning, but let’s be clear, this is not what this resit policy is about. Instead it puts teachers and pupils under more pressure to narrow provision and divert resources.
4. There would, one assumes, be a huge cost to this policy in terms of setting, distributing, marking and moderating the results. But no – it’s cheap as chips apparently because teachers will do it. All by themselves. Those gaming, cheating teachers who couldn’t be trusted with coursework are apparently ok to assess these tests. Why? Perhaps because they don’t actually matter. They’re a policy sop to the media and to parents whose kids will never have to sit them. Tory heartland voters.
5. Those of us with memories will recall that the real SATs were subject to such controversy over marking a few years ago that the head of QCA was sacked and the system overhauled. But Year 7 teachers can mark them, no problem.
6. We don’t have time to mark them, by the way. Remember that thing about teacher workload you were banging on about a few weeks ago, Nicky Morgan, you know, in an unconvincing attempt to win some teacher votes?
7. What I suggest is that if you teach Year 7, you just press ahead and teach children to love the English language. Read books with them, talk to them. Let them talk to you and to each other. Make writing the great, imaginative, wonderful adventure it should be. Forget the tests. You might as well not bother doing them actually, but if you do, draw a big smiley face on the front. Write PASS and then take them out to play – in a museum or a theatre or somewhere stimulating and lovely. Literacy comes with immersion and love of language. It doesn’t grow in a test.