What keeps me awake at night - Did a colleague cheat the Sats?

29th April 2011 at 01:00
Anonymous views from education's front line

This week: a primary NQT in Yorkshire

This is my first year in teaching. I am in my early 30s and wanted to move on from my last "profession" - it involved wheeling and dealing and training under-educated know-nothings how to sell unimportant utility products to elderly people who didn't need them in the first place. I wanted a change.

Teaching seemed pure to me. I imagined that only those who were morally upstanding would be able to endure in the profession. To me, teachers were paragons, knights of the educational realm.

Within two months of starting this school year, I was instructed to carry out a batch of optional Year 4 Sats tests with my pupils. This is standard at our school, and my class even seemed enthusiastic about sitting their first assessments with their new teacher.

However, when I marked the papers afterwards I found the results somewhat distressing. Almost all of the children had dropped at least a sub-level since the previous year; a few had dropped three or four.

I was aghast, horrified at these results. Even though I was the "new boy", I realised that I had some professional give, so I tried not to be too fazed by the frown from the deputy head and his disapproving comments: "Your results aren't very good compared to the other Year 4 class, are they?" But the test results seemed to speak for themselves, and I began to have doubts about my teaching. Surely it must have been my fault? The children had regressed, devolved under my tutorial "expertise". I wasn't worthy, I had picked the wrong career change and didn't deserve a place at Michael Gove's round table of learning. Or so I thought.

I decided, purely out of curiosity, to ask some of the children to retake the Year 3 tests from the previous year. I noticed then that the children scored lower than they had when they took them the previous time. With considerable bewilderment, I set out to look through their actual test papers from last year and mark them myself. Things became even stranger at this point.

I kept thinking of the Sherlock Holmes quote: "If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is invariably the truth." Only one possibility seemed plausible: their previous teacher had falsely elevated scores.

My jaw feels slack even writing this down, but I could not think of another explanation. Had the teacher made my life harder by . well . cheating? Had they done so through some twisted sense of survival, a solipsism born of paranoia mixed with the stress of having to hit ludicrous and unachievable targets?

Of course, it could simply be a case that my teaching was bad, coupled with the fact that my pupils no doubt forgot a lot over the six-week holiday. Only time will tell. If the same thing happens again next year, I'll be sure to let you know.

To tell us what terrifies you or to share the unscripted events that have happened in your classroom, email michael.shaw@tes.co.uk.

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