Letters extra: a test by any other name

27th April 2001 at 01:00

Why do contributors to The TES refer to Sats as if they actually exist? There is never any sense of irony, no suggestion that this term is slang, a nickname, a misnomer.

True, last summer it was reported that Mr Blunkett was interested in the idea of introducing real Sats for the first time ("Scholastic Aptitude Tests" - from the USA) but nothing has been heard since then.

True, during the gestation of the national curriculum, trainers and teachers struggled to come to terms with the concept of assessment through banks of "Standard Assessment Tasks".

However, two things happened in 1992. Firstly, it was decided that classroom tasks should be replaced by national tests - this meant the end of UK Sats at a stroke. Secondly, the Assessment Authority discovered that, even if it wanted to pretend that its tests were Sats, it could not - because the American agency responsible for Scholastic Aptitude Tests held the copyright on the acronym.

A response I have from the QCA on this matter includes the following: "We stopped using the term [Sats] in 1992, and since then have referred to the tests as 'end of key stage tests' or 'national tests' in all our publications and correspondence. We have brought this to the attention of schools, journalists and the public in many and various ways..."

So, why, oh why ...?

Peter Tallon
Cannock, Staffs

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