'Let's recognise Sats for what they are – a sprint to see who wins and who loses'

4th July 2017 at 15:55
It's high time we consigned this method of assessment to Room 101, says one former headteacher

Welcome to the awards ceremony for the annual Sats sports day. The results are now in and have been sent to headteachers across the country. They show that we have again manipulated the figures to support the government's view on the direction for education.

These results will be pored over endlessly by those who consider them important, and countless schools and thousands of children will be affected in a negative way. 

We need to recognise Sats for what they are: a race to see who wins and who loses. And what do we all think about losers?

Despite all the research on offer and all the parental and teacher protests, we still expend nearly the whole of Year 6 and much of Year 5 preparing children for this sham set of tests.

It is a sham because it is driven by the ideology that implies tests are good for our education system and we need them to know what our children can do. This is so far from the truth.

Let's consider the wonderful semicolon. I managed to avoid it for the whole of my education, and Man Booker Prize novels have been written without using a single one. Yet, if our little 11-year-olds fail to recognise a semicolon or use it appropriately, they are deemed a failure in English. How sad it is that our education assessment has been reduced to such insanity.

In this Sats sprint, let's look at the runners. We have, of course, those who can't wait to get off the blocks: they are really well prepared and are raring to go. Some are a little bit too confident, but will do OK. 

Then we have those who will bunch in the middle: they try hard but are never likely to win.

But what about those who crawl along at the back, seemingly with their feet tied together? Many of these try so hard but, for all their efforts, feel they are running in mud.

These are the "borderline" children. Sats have made them a failure at the age of 11. And they have failed in a year when they have had little access to music or PE or drama – the very subjects in which they may have triumphed

But who really cares? Government ministers will have their ammunition for another year, the media will make hay with the results and Ofsted will have new data with which to punish schools.

To achieve this year's results, Year 6 teachers will have sweated blood. They will have truly jumped through every hoop to achieve the best for their children and their school. Children will have turned up early and left late to cram for the tests. But we are still left with one stark fact: we have winners and losers.

This is an unhealthy method of assessment: the mental health of both our pupils and teachers is being compromised. Yet, still we persist with this deeply flawed method.

Teachers rightly complain about how hard they work, about how their work-life balance is unsustainable. Their pay is inadequate and issues associated with the job are too numerous to mention.

But central to all these problems is a system called assessment that is deciding how good individual teachers and schools are. Teachers know what our children can and can't do, so at this year's awards ceremony, it is time once more to renew the call for Sats to be consigned to Room 101 (as soon as possible, please).

Colin Harris has led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were 'outstanding' across all categories

To read more of Colin's articles, visit his back catalogue

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