Diary of Sats Week: It all started with a Special Sats Breakfast served with a slice of fear and a mug of uncertainty...

...one sick child, a loss in the spelling sweepstake and several grammar chants later, Sats Week is over, writes one primary headteacher

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It was a bright and cold day in May and the clocks were striking 8:34 – as George Orwell may have said.

As the sun peeped through the clouds @educationgovuk tweeted:

KS2 tests #Sats start in primary schools this week. Please ensure test materials remain secure this week and until 22 May.

To which @Headswapboy1 replies:

We will if you will #roguemarker

Monday

"Sats Breakfast" is a buzz of excitement, fear and uncertainty – and that’s just the teachers. I am standing watching the children eat while thinking, ‘is that his third helping? Please don’t throw up...is he always that pale?’ I have only had to clear up one Sats paper dripping with vomit. It is not in my top 10 career highlights.

I see the teachers checking who has arrived, little beads of sweat running down their foreheads. I run through the conversations I might have to have with parents, “What do you mean he’s chafed his left index finger?” or “she’s got the Plague? Give her a Paracetamol and we’ll see you in 10?”

Reading Paper

I am confident because our children have spent the last term studying the 'remorse of conscience' in Joyce’s Ulysses and 'alienation' in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. They are primed. They are reading comprehension machines!

A what? Stuck up a tree? 

They have been breezing through War and Peace during playtime! Where’s the critique of some lost magnum opus exploring a dystopia where the productive class refuses to be exploited? Is this the best you have? Piffle!

I keep walking past the classrooms looking in to see if the teachers are trembling wrecks in the corner. They are good. My blood pressure lowers to dangerous.

Tuesday

Grammer (As we say it in Somerset).

The children start the day chanting,

“Sixth Sick Sheik’s Sixth Sheep’s Sick” One hundred times to the quickening beat of a galley drum, until everyone is ‘Grammar Zen’.

I am hoping all the school grammar jokers don’t think today is the day to answer questions about subordinate clauses being Santa’s naughty Elves or ‘I’ll never date another apostrophe...the last one was too possessive’. I give them the head teacher authority eye before they start (not literally of course).

Spelling

I’m devastated to have lost the Spelling Sweepstake by having none of my predicted words included in the test! Brexit, landslide, fibbing or article 50 were not there – travesty! 

I try to be ‘down with the kids’ and play football in the afternoon sun with Year 6. I fall over, twist my arm and look a fool. I’m high-fived until my hand is numb (which slightly relieves the pain). I attend a finance meeting soaked through and sweaty – I’m given distance.

Wednesday

I start the day retrieving the arithmetic papers from the high security reinforced cupboard. I briefly forget the pin number and realise I’m on my last chance. I am then slightly frustrated that my tired, dry eyes need four scans of the laser to trigger the lock. I’m also a bit miffed that security didn’t ask me to verify I was over 25. 

A child is sick! I go into melt down. My therapist says to contact the Standards and Testing Agency (STA). They put me on hold. I shout at the phone for 30 minutes. I email them. They have the wrong email printed in the guidance. I blame education pre-Sats.

Another chant drifts down the corridor as Year 6 recalls Pi to 100 digits. They are all now Number Zen or Number Wang...or something.

I am disappointed that someone at the STA didn’t include a maths problem which read:

Clara was trying to balance her school budget. She has 347 children attending her school and 12 teachers. Clara makes four teachers redundant. How many children per class?

Thursday

My heart misses a beat when I see a Year 6 child walking in to school with his arm in a sling! How dare parents let their child go to the park?! I write a risk assessment about freak accidents. They should be kept under 24-hour surveillance. I wonder if there’s an APP for this. I think of a Twitter campaign for next year: ‘Carefree children cost teachers jobs! Parents! Keep your children home during #Sats week.’  Though this may send the wrong message. 

Phew! He’s left-handed!

I thought the reasoning paper was a bit tough:

If you weren’t being educated in Somerset you could receive up to an extra £2000 per year funding. There are 60 children in Year 6. Equate the additional funding for your cohort over your schooling history (Y1 to Y6). Also, equate what % impact this additional financial support would have upon your predicted Sats grades.

This week has taught me one thing. I am so proud of my school community. I am so proud of those Year 6 children. I am so proud of my staff. Okay, that was three. It is a good job I don’t have to sit the Sats test.

Brian Walton is a primary head in Somerset. He tweets as @Oldprimaryhead1

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