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When Sats fever takes hold everything else suffers

While Banquo is trapped practising percentages, the rehearsals for Steve Eddison's summer production of Macbeth grind to a halt

Sats tests disrupt the whole school - not just pupils in Year 6, writes headteacher Michael Tidd

When shall my drama group meet again?

The human brain isn’t always good at remembering things. Recently I have forgotten several passwords, the staffroom door code and how to reset the clock on the oven when the time went forward. The odd thing is, I can recall in precise detail events that happened half a century ago. Maybe some things are just more memorable.

Yesterday, when Banquo should have been doing drama, he was busy relearning how to calculate percentages. He’s already been shown how to do this using a variety of examples from a range of maths practice test papers. However, because he was unable to effectively recall and apply the processes involved, his teacher refused to let him come to drama.

Unfortunately, it’s not just Banquo. In percentage terms, the Year 6 children turning up to rehearse for our summer production (a murderous tale of witchcraft, ambition and talking trees based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth) has been lower than the Bank of England base rate. Conversely, those spending every minute of every day doing test practice has been higher than the APR on a pay day loan.  

Banquo’s teacher explained that while she appreciated my attempt to bring a little creativity into his life was important, it could not happen at the expense of him gaining a clear understanding of how to calculate percentages. What if in later life he got sucked into a mire of credit card debt? What if he drowned in a financial abyss? How would I feel then?

What I feel right now is that the use of saturation teaching methods are neither effective nor about safeguarding our children’s futures. Was Banquo’s extra booster lesson meant to save him from becoming a debt statistic? Or was it just an example of a school in a socially challenging catchment trying desperately to achieve unrealistically challenging key stage 2 test targets?

Today I am two witches, one messenger and a Banquo short of being able to rehearse my blasted heath scene. While waiting for them to arrive I encourage the others by explaining how performing on stage in a real theatre packed with cheering friends and family will be a memory that will live with them for the rest of their lives. To prove this I describe my own experience from 54 years ago.

I wore Lincoln green. I carried a bow in case the Sheriff’s men came to Sherwood Forest and needed to be taught a lesson. I’d have liked to have been Robin Hood (mainly because he got to hold hands with Maid Marion – aka Jean France) but was more than happy to be Merry Man Three. Merry Man Three had two lines. His first line was…   

I’m interrupted by the arrival of two witches and the missing messenger. Ironically, the latter is carrying a note from Banquo’s teacher. He can’t come to drama today because he’s having trouble with probability. No doubt his teacher is worried he’ll become addicted to gambling.

I heave a sigh and wonder…When shall my drama group meet again? If I was a gambling man myself, I’d bet not until the hurly burly of Sats testing’s done.

Steve Eddison is a teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield

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