Don't defame the boycott bravehearts

28th May 2010 at 01:00

What Sats boycott? In response to Michael Shaw's editorial, "Lets pretend the boycott never happened", perhaps the reason the nation never noticed was because in so many cases there was no real boycott. I commend schools that took more meaningful steps, but in many schools it simply meant not using current papers and not sending them off to be marked. So for too many children the experience remained the same - still the stress of sitting Sats, the monotony of endless practice papers and the narrowing of their Year 6 curriculum to focus on tests. Did the children really notice, or care, that the papers they sat were not this year's? They still experienced the stress and still knew they were being judged on a narrow range of outcomes.

Some headteachers might feel better now they have challenged the league tables. After all, their performance can no longer be judged against others. But is this really what all the concern was about? I thought the real issues were around us putting young children through stressful tests, when teachers could easily evaluate their progress in so much more appropriate ways, and the narrowness of what was being taught in the classroom.

Were we not also concerned that Sats measured so little of what our education system, employers, parents and even young people themselves value and want? The broader curriculum, the skills, attitudes and dispositions so important to individuals and society generally? This is not to suggest that literacy and numeracy are not important but to remind us that they sit alongside so many other areas we value. So next time, if we are to boycott Sats, why not do it in a way the nation, and the children themselves, will notice. Why not focus less on boycotting the system and more on developing more meaningful teaching, learning and assessments that consider the whole child and the broader curriculum. Let's show we really do care for children and that we can make their lives better.

Robin Widdowson, Independent learning consultant.

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