'I'm worried,' my 11-year-old tells me. 'I'm worried I'm not going to do well in my Sats'

It used to be OK to tell your kids that Sats were just there to test the school, explains one worried parent. It's not true any more: they are there to test the children. And the pressure that follows is really quite shocking

Anne Collins

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For the past seven years, the discarded school shoes in the hallway have been getting larger and larger and now we, my daughter and I, can no longer ignore what this means.

She thinks it means she is finally old enough for high heels.

No. It means she is finally old enough to leave her primary school, her friends and her habit of leaving her shoes where the rest of us trip over them.

My daughter’s state primary school is a wonderful place where she has done fantastic things. She has been on school trips to hear orchestras, to dig up woodland bugs and to visit museums where she met ancient Romans. The school has been visited by scientists, artists and authors. I hope this is pretty typical. I think it is. Perhaps not every child gets to be cast as a murderer in a school play – that was a proud moment.

I give full credit to the school for everything she has learned in her seven years there. Apart from the moves to Watch Me (whip/Nae Nae), which I’m pretty sure was not on the national curriculum.

I have done little, but read her bedtime stories and even that tailed off as she got older and wanted to read through the books herself, more quickly and – sometimes – past bedtime.

Until the last month when she asked me to start reading her stories again.

She’d pass me her book, I’d read and then she’d snuggle down. And then, just last week, in the dim light, feeling warm and safe she said: “I’m really worried.”

“What about?”

“About the Sats.”


“We’ve done practice papers and I’ve not done that well.”

You can't fail, can you?

At this point, the Mumsnet-sourced advice is to reassure your child that the Sats are tests of the school, not of the child. It’s not like you can really “fail”, is it? You still go to secondary school. You will still have a new start. In new shoes.

But that’s not true any more. Not when the Year 7 resits come in. Then you really will be able to “fail” at 11 (or even at 10 if you have a summer birthday). In a way, I suppose it levels the playing field with those children who still sit 11-plus exams around the country. Although some of those “failures” will get to “fail” twice under this system, just in case they didn’t get the message the first time around.

But I don’t say any of that, of course. I say: “Don’t worry about the Sats. You’ll be off to a new school soon...“

“Which school?”

“A school.”

“It’s not fair my friends know which school they’re going to.”

“Well you’re the oldest, so we just have to cross our fingers. Now go to sleep.”

And she does, because today she is still a child and so all her stories have happy endings. Tomorrow? Well, tomorrow she will have to grow up.

But she’s still not getting high heels.

Anne Collins is a pseudonym

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Anne Collins

Anne Collins is the mother of two primary-age children in London

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