'As the night terrors recede, it’s time to talk about Sats'

18th May 2018 at 00:00
Michael Tidd analyses four common Sats-based nightmares that have plagued teachers across the land

And so, it’s all over. Save for a few stragglers who had the audacity to fall ill during test week, we can put the whole debacle behind us for another year. Of course, because of those few, it’s forbidden to talk about what has gone on. The first rule of Sats Club is… well, you get the picture.

We can, though, talk about the build-up and deal with the collective outpouring of relief at a successful conclusion to a frantic week. For although we can all say that it’s a whole-school effort, if you’re not the one reading the assessment and reporting arrangements booklet for the 32nd time this year, then it’s not quite the same.

Plenty of Year 6 teachers and others involved with the administration of Sats across the school will have had the same nightmares in the run-up, and now’s the time when we can begin to interpret quite what they meant.

The ‘wrong displays’ nightmare

The clock is ticking down, the children seem confident, there’s plenty of time to spare when the local authority administrator arrives. Everything’s running smoothly; you’re feeling good. Then you suddenly notice out of the corner of your eye that you forgot to cover one of the displays in your classroom. And it’s the display with all of the grammatical terminology explained. With the Sats questions beside them. And the administrator is looking right at it.

What it means: You’re a diligent teacher who wants to do the best by the children in your class. It goes with the territory.

The ‘wrong paper’ nightmare

You announce the final five minutes of the arithmetic paper. It’s all run smoothly so far, and you take a final wander around the room. But wait… why has Jacob got a reading answer paper in front of him? And how is he on question 17 when he hasn’t even got the texts to refer to? And why didn’t you notice this until now? What was the prison sentence for maladministration again…?

What it means: You work with children. Despite all the claims to the contrary, they are only human, and fairly little ones at that. There’s no accounting for them.

The ‘wrong bags’ nightmare

You’ve read the instructions at least 20 times before attempting to bundle up the test papers. You’ve remembered to put the register inside the white bag before adding it to the green bag. Or was it the other way around? The bags are all sealed, envelopes inside, labels attached, just as the courier arrives. You complete a successful handover and slump down into your chair, which has a test paper on it. That should be in the bag that you’ve just seen driven off at speed along the high street!

What it means: You’re a conscientious sort who wants to do things by the book, even though the book makes it incredibly confusing to follow.

The ‘wrong system’ nightmare

Finally, Friday has arrived and you can relax knowing that every test has been safely administered, the cupboards unlocked and the displays unveiled. You congratulate your team on another year successfully survived, and the children on their efforts. At last you can begin to relax and maybe even venture a game of rounders on the field. But just as you head out the door, the headteacher grabs you: you’ve been selected for writing moderation!

What it means: You work in a crazy, high-stakes system and there’s no escaping it. Sorry.

Roll on half term, eh?

Michael Tidd is headteacher at Medmerry Primary School in West Sussex

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