As my Year 6 daughter and I discussed what she would be doing in school this week, following Sats, she seemed genuinely confused when she discovered that it wouldn’t be simply more of the same. Don’t get me wrong, her primary school has been fantastic this year and her curriculum has been rich, varied and engaging. She’s an extremely demanding character and has been very happy. And a happy child means contented parents.
Happy, that is, right up until she discovered that this week she would not be receiving her marked Sats papers back, finding out how she had performed and learning how to make further progress.
It came as quite a shock to her. Indeed, she was furious and proceeded to rant for some time. “What is the point?” she asked. “How do we know what we have to work on next?”
Somehow this small detail had eluded her. The concept of the Sats being a kind of full-stop to her key stage 2 was not a welcome one. She’s been on a Sats cycle for months, if not years, and, as a result, she sees formative assessment as an absolute right. The concept that there is nothing more to do, for now, is completely alien to her.
I’m not sure how she didn’t realise this – she’s had a succession of fantastic teachers and her mother is a headteacher. However, I do feel as if she is in mourning for what she sees as a missed chance.
'The accountability machine'
She’ll get the scores, of course. She’ll find out if she is "reaching the expected standard" or "achieving a high score". We already know that she is doing well. But, without my permission, she has become part of a generation that wants to know more. It seems to matter to her, and she wants to improve.
She will move on to a new school in September, a new key stage, and she will want to keep on improving in the same manner. What will my daughter’s Year 7 teachers know about her besides some data? It's highly unlikely they will be in receipt of her Sats papers, or have question-level analysis at hand; she may bring her Year 6 books with her, but how many teachers will have the chance to flick through? I’ve taught many Year 7 students myself and I simply haven’t had the time; heart-breaking, but true.
I think she suspects that she will now be starting again. It’s not about the Sats themselves but about a school system that doesn’t speak to itself. From her perspective, she has worked hard, taken these tests seriously but will not reap the rewards she wants; her school will. We need to rejoin this thinking so it benefits the children and doesn’t simply feed the accountability machine.
Keziah Featherstone is co-founder and national leader for #WomenEd. She is currently head at Q3 Academy Tipton and a member of the Headteachers' Roundtable. She tweets at @keziah70