Better ways of spending a week

28th May 2004 at 01:00
I have nearly completed my first year as a Year 6 teacher in south London, having been a newly-qualified teacher in Year 1 last year.

As you are aware we have just completed key stage 2 Sats, and although I have done a number of practice tests in class from previous years' papers, I was shocked at the content of the 2004 tests. However, I enjoyed reading other professionals' views in your piece (TES, May 14).

One concern I have was the question about the food chain in the science test, where the arrows were pointing in the wrong direction. This was confusing for many children because not many cabbages grow in the garden in south London, especially if you are not even lucky enough to have a garden; parentscarers buy cabbages from the local supermarket.

Then there was the question with the boy holding the thermometer in the middle, above a glass of water attempting to measure the temperature, but not getting a reading. This was confusing as obviously many children stated that the thermometer needed to be in the water, but the way in which the boy was holding the thermometer (between his fingers in the middle, not at either end) could alter the reading of the temperature, and should be recognised as a correct answer. My question here is: are these tests for the purposes of assessing children's learning or are they planned to catch children out?

The comments made about the English longer writing task, preparing a presentation about a change in the hours of the school day, in the article were interesting. I found that those children in my class, who had experiences of preparing presentations for assemblies, found the task more manageable than those who had not, primarily out of their own choice.

Should this mean that to prepare children for Sats we force them to make presentations to large groups, when they would not choose to do so?

The content of the maths tests was fair, and contained questions all my children could do, under normal circumstances, but again no matter how much you prepare them, some children will never be ready. I feel this is because no matter how we present our lessons to children, the information in a test will never be presented in the same way. So even if they know how to solve the problem, using a different word or symbol could throw them.

In conclusion, I would say that we should be recognising and praising children for the many wonderful things they achieve every day, not spending a week trying to highlight what they find difficult to do, and probably have done for a number of years.

Cynthia Thomas 33 Strathblaine Road Battersea London SW11

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