'When the KS2 Sats dust has settled, it won't be the children who are winners – and it won't be the teachers'

5th May 2017 at 15:01
Tes columnist Steve Eddison sends in a report from the frontline of high accountability testing

Diary entry: Friday 5 May 2017 (three days before key stage 2 Sats)

Forgive me if I speak in whispers, but mine is a dangerous occupation. There are those in this school who think I am on a mission to subvert the established order of things. They see me as an educational anarchist, hell-bent on undermining the system from within. They treat me with a mixture of suspicion and contempt, and watch my every move. 

These guardians of the learning classes claim they are working in the interests of children. Behind closed doors intensive training regimes operate. "Repetitive drills and endless practice are vital for children on the frontline of educational achievement," they say. "Only thorough training and well-honed exam skills will help them to survive the intense bombardment of key stage 2 tests."

Yet even if they are victorious, their glories will be short-lived. As a former Year 6 teacher, I know the truth. When the dust has settled and the smoke from the testing field has cleared, it will not be the children (mere cannon fodder in the fight for institutional survival) who are the winners. 

The love of learning is lost

And neither, in the long run, will it be their teachers. In ivory towers, miles from the frontline of learning, the field marshalls of policy and the generals of political opinion will examine the data and draw fresh lines in the sand. New instructions will be sent, urging schools to carry the fight even further. A year from now another cohort of children will shed their love of learning to gain a few more inches of attainment.  

I cannot let this happen unopposed. "He who dares wins," I tell myself, and knock on a classroom door. Despite widespread belief to the contrary, my aim is not to overthrow the system. I only wish to free children temporarily from the drudgery of test practice. My only desire is for them to mark the end of their time in primary school with an achievement that will last a lifetime. 

As I enter the classroom, tensions rise. Children straining at their tasks look up hopefully from revision manuals, but their teacher glares them down. She turns in my direction, proffers a fake smile and says, "Yes, Mr Eddison, what do you want?"

"I would like some Year 6 children to come and rehearse for our summer production," I reply. Her fake smile turns into a grimace. Mentally she reorganises her defences and digs in for another battle.

Steve Eddison is a Tes columnist and primary school teacher

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