'As we approach Sats results, I keep asking myself, "Is this right? Should 11-year-olds be this worried?"'

6th July 2015 at 18:44
Sats results
One London primary teacher worries about the growing pressure on her pupils

"Miss, our Sats results are coming out tomorrow, aren’t they?" Three girls cluster round me in the playground. They are polite and eager to please, and have worked hard all year.

"Yes," I reply. They jump up and down and look at each other, nervous but excited.

In the afternoon, a boy (less conscientious) puts his hand up straight after the register.

"Miss, do we get our results tomorrow?"

"Yes," I say. His reaction is extreme: mouth wide open; eyes huge. He is barely able to contain his emotion. I wonder at it, imagining what his mother has said to him. She was severe at parents' evening about his levels.

This year, there has been an unprecedented amount concern about Sats. Not a day has gone by in two weeks without a worried face enquiring "Can we open them up in school or do we have to wait until we get home?" or "Are they in an envelope with our name on?" or "Do we get them in the morning?"

These are legitimate requests. The Sats have become a big deal in primary schools. This year, though, there has been a constant niggling doubt in my mind whenever a child asks me a question about them: Is this right? Should 11-year-olds be this worried?

When I was at school in the 1980s (a time when the Marxist grip of progressivism allowed my teacher to come to school on roller skates, and when we were lucky if we left having learned our 5 times table), I was never tested. Not once. I really loved school, though. I hope my class love school. Sometimes I think maybe they don’t enough.

Tomorrow we get the results. I will be in early with the head, and we will pore over them. We will say that this child has been dealt an injustice by being tested on how quickly they read, not just on their comprehension. We will marvel at how another pulled it out the bag. For me, these exams are both rose and thorn.

I know that tomorrow I will be ecstatic about those children who exceed their own expectations, and in awe of those who reach the holy grail of a level 6.  I will tell those children who are not happy that they are just tests, and not a true reflection of how talented they are. But every year I worry that my words mean less, and that the results themselves mean more.

Jane Manzone is a primary teacher in London and tweets at @heymisssmith


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