It’s the week beginning 8 May and key stage 2 Sats is capitalised in my diary in red pen.
My students are round eyed and nervous. The upper corridors are out of bounds.
We’ve received weekly emails to remind us of the details. We think of the children we’ve taught, and pray they remember everything. And we’re not even in Year 6.
So why are the Sats a big deal for the rest of us?
KS2 Sats week has a huge impact on the children who face this time of testing and the teachers who prepare them for it.
The relationship between teacher and pupils becomes that of nurturer and nurtured, as children are encouraged to think positive thoughts and get plenty of sleep. It causes stress at home and a rush to the shops for favourite snacks and drinks to tide them over. The wider family get involved.
But it’s not just Year 6 who are affected. The whole school joins in the dance.
Although there can be no comparison to the level of stress experienced by Year 6, the system demands that we make our own sacrifices to the Test God.
No TAs – We will lose TAs, which means that those vulnerable children with learning difficulties, anger issues or other needs such as ADHD, will have to make do without personalised help and support for the week.
This will make teaching and learning challenging and the atmosphere in class unpredictable.
Why do we lose them? So that quite rightly those same children can, when they are in Year 6, have the extra support they are entitled to with reading, or separate testing arrangements. It’s a shame it has to be done this way.
Silence is golden – The most successful learning in primary school is practical, child-centred and interactive. My students spend a lot of time taking part in paired talk, group work, drama and role play activities.
All that will go this week because the walls of my classroom are very thin and there will be testing all week in the rooms next door.
We will need to be mouse-like, which means minimum (or whispered) talk, no drama and probably little excitement around learning. Not something I or my students are used to.
When’s break? – Instead of being able to judge the length of activities in the usual way (two subjects before break) we’ll have to wait until the message goes round – ‘They’ve finished the test!’
Only then can we line up, leave the room and stream down the corridor towards the playground. Otherwise we might disturb them and put them off the most important thing in the world – doing well in the tests.
Careless talk costs lives – We’ll need to be very careful what we say to the Year 6 teachers. Don’t even think of asking innocently: “How was the arithmetic?” Or worse: “Do you have all the protractors?” They will stab you, in cold blood, with a sharpened pencil and bury you under a mound of practice papers.
And who can blame them? They’ve been working up to these tests for thirty-five weeks, including holidays. I counted. Is it surprising they’re stressed? Their credibility (and to some extent ours) is at stake.
Ofsted are coming – And when they do, there will be a day of reckoning for all of us. (How did that child come out with a score of 83 for reading? Did I teach him nothing in Year 4?)
We are all judged by the KS2 results – children, governors, senior leaders, teachers. Even if we all get "Good" or "Outstanding" for the quality of our teaching, if our results come in too low for the national average, we’re all stuffed.
Is it any wonder we tiptoe around this week, our hearts in our mouths?
All this is a scandal when you think about it, but it’s been the case in nearly every school I’ve worked for.
Do I blame them? Of course not. It’s the result of a system obsessed with testing, cuts and the pitting of one school against another in a shameless attempt to promote rivalry and individualism.
I tick things off in my diary when I’ve done them. I don’t do that with KS2 Sats.
You see, they might be over, but they’re always there. Until the results have come out, or Ofsted has come, or both.
But then, September arrives and it starts all over again.
The writer wishes to remain anonymous