This year has been my first year teaching Year 6: my first year on the frontline of Sats.
I joined my class part way through the academic year after five years teaching Years 2 and 3, and I feared that the change would mean fundamental shifts in the way I teach. Those shifts, I believed, would see me unable to focus on all the things I feel are most important in education: developing the whole child, a balanced curriculum and values-based education. Instead, I would surely find myself teaching to the test with room for little else.
Nevertheless, I was in now in Year 6 and the Sats were going to happen whether I wanted them to or not. So, I had to find a way to rewrite the narrative around Sats; to reframe the experience so that both my class and I could get through the process without losing ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong – I would rather Sats weren’t there. But my point is that they are and they’re not all bad. In fact, I am genuinely looking forward to doing it again next year.
Here are my positive takeaways from my first experience of Sats.
1. A sense of accomplishment
My class felt special during Sats week – as it will do during their school play and their leavers’ activities. But in Sats week, we focused on how hard pupils had worked this year and how much they had learnt. There was a real sense of pride and accomplishment in the air which felt great to be a part of.
2. Teaching perseverance
Sats gave us a chance to focus on a single goal for longer than we usually would do in school, and this was a valuable learning experience for my class. It taught them that sometimes you need to persevere towards a goal. We didn’t slave away, it wasn’t onerous, but we knew the tests were happening and that some aspects of our learning were building towards them.
At the same time, we recognised that it was only part of our learning. We didn’t change our timetable or reduce foundation subject time at all.
3. Solidarity between peers
In any group of people, the jostling of personalities sometimes causes the odd disagreement in class. Not so in Sats week, however. I saw how the shared experience pulled the children together in a way that even our residential trip the previous half term hadn’t done.
4. Strengthening relationships
Just as the children bonded with each other, I bonded even more with my class after sharing the experience of Sats with them. They genuinely appreciated the hard work that I had put in for them and I felt hugely proud of the hard work they’d put in too.
When we finished the final paper, we all ran out onto the field whooping with delight and waving our hands. It’s a special moment that I won’t forget in a hurry.
5. Tests aren’t the be all and end all
If nothing else I hope the greatest lesson I’ve managed to teach my class over the course of Sats is that tests are not the be all and end all. Yes, it’s a good idea to prepare. Yes, it’s nicer to find out what happens when you have tried your best than what happens when you haven’t. But at the end of the day, Sats gave us an opportunity to discuss those times when things don’t go to plan, those moments that seem important at the time but which, in the grand scheme of things, really aren’t.
It gave us a chance to create a sense of perspective that I hope pupils will be able to carry with them as they go on to secondary school in September.
Lucy Starbuck Braidley is a Year 5/6 teacher and English lead at a school in Hampshire