If it ain't broke, don't fix it

14th February 2003 at 00:00
I can't be the only Year 6 teacher trying hard to avoid being dragged down by the hysteria surrounding changes to the format of SATs. Every week - sometimes every day - since September, I've received literature addressed to the "Year 6 teacher", some from official sources, some from commercial producers jumping on the bandwagon. It all tries to spell out how changes to this year's SATs will affect my pupils and me, and how I must be preparing for such changes. It all then includes some examples of the changes, so I can amend my teaching accordingly. It's difficult to avoid being swept up in the panic of feeling that "if I don't do this, I shall be failing my pupils".

Has anyone else noticed that the "changed" maths questions are actually real questions from past papers? (I know, because as a Sats team leader I marked several hundred of them). Or that the oh-so-useful examples in the English exemplification use two non-fiction pieces of writing and say next to nothing about fiction?

I have discussed this with my Year 2 colleague, who is being similarly bombarded; she has observed that the "new" marking criteria are the same as the old, just set out in a slightly different format.

As a Year 6 teacher, I aim to build on the excellent teaching of colleagues lower down the school, enthuse and inspire my pupils, and prepare them for the transition to secondary school. They will be tested along the way - and it is my role to see they are prepared for this brief interruption to their learning - but I do not intend to spend the year practising for tests.

It would bore me rigid; it would bore my pupils. I teach them how to learn, how to find things out, how to work through problems; I aim to motivate them to do all these things to the best of their ability. This includes plenty of PE, music, art and French - and last term incorporated periods of handbell ringing.

As I'm in Kent, just over half the class endured the 11-plus before Christmas, effectively stopping learning for a week or so. I envisage the same fraught atmosphere to descend again after Easter as we "prepare" for SATs. But, until then, my class will continue to learn and I shall try to inspire, enthuse and enjoy the job of teaching them. I encourage all other Year 6 teachers to maintain faith in their own ability, use the SATs advice sparingly, and continue to teach their pupils, not train them.

Angela Ayling is a Year 6 teacher and key stage 2 co-ordinator at Mersham primary school in Kent

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