Carolyn Roberts is a secondary head who views the requirement for primaries to tell parents whether their children have met “expected standards” as “utterly outrageous”.
“The purpose of Sats is to make sure that the schools are doing what society wants them to do, and to work out where schools are struggling and need help, or where they are doing well and can be role models,” says the head of Thomas Tallis School in Kidbrooke, south-east London.
“The weight of that should not fall upon the head of the child.”
The school has a banded system for admissions and last year had 1,245 applications for its 270 places.
“We do a number of things when a child arrives,” Roberts says. “We do use the Sats results, but we also retest to get a broad view of what children’s abilities are.
“That is not because we don’t trust primaries, but because if we only had test results in reading, writing or maths, that is a very narrow test. We set in maths but we don’t set in English, and we need both measures to put teaching groups together.”
Now six months in, how are the pupils who did not meet expectations in their Sats last year faring at her school?
“I have spoken to pupils whose scores were in the 90s [100 is the ‘expected standard’],” she says. “One felt sad when she got them, but some said they got better results than they expected.
“None of them felt that it made a difference to them now because no one talked about [the scores] here. Of the four pupils I spoke to, three were told very firmly not to talk about results at primary school, but one said that their school put up a list in rank order. She said ones who were at the top felt really pleased and the ones at the bottom felt bad.”
Roberts says there may be ways to support children who fail. But, she adds, it is “fundamentally wrong” to tell them they have not met expectations.
“The secretary of state is not holding the child to account,” she says. “So why this diktat from the secretary of state to 10- and 11-year-olds saying, ‘You have fallen short of expectations.’ Nobody needs it and the child certainly doesn’t need it.”