I’ve not blogged yet this week – the twin pressures of SATS preparation and Parents Evening providing more than enough for this Year 6 teacher to be getting on with.
But as we come to the end of a so-called “mock SATS” week, it’s left me reflecting on the enduring nature of formal assessments and “tests”.
Are they a teacher’s way out of doing rigorous daily assessments on their classes and causing anxiety to their pupils, or are they helpful for ascertaining “where they are” and providing benefit to the children themselves?
And that’s the interesting contrast of tests.
Allow me to explain…
On the one hand, there’ll be plenty of people reading this blog who have had horrendous experiences of tests in the past and are firmly against their use in education. They will (in many cases quite rightly) argue that tests cause teachers to restrict their teaching, encourage unhealthy competition and destroy children’s confidence.
They’ve probably been through it before or seen their kids suffer from over-testing. They would argue that at 10 and 11 years old, it’s too much to load on them the pressure of national tests and it’s awful to put them through preparation.
In fact, children should get to be children, enjoy primary school while keeping the same level of academic rigour. Just don’t hit them with so many tests!
And I totally hear that point of view.
On the other hand, I’ve seen this week that the tests we have done have actually inspired our children and given them a massive vote of self-confidence. We’re blessed in one sense that our children do achieve quite well due to parental support and access to resources. The children are great and they’re also fortunate.
However, they still need to make progress at whichever level and the tests we will be doing as SATS (and the bit of preparation we’ve done this week) are very useful for informing and confirming our teacher judgement about how they’re doing.
On top of that though, and way more importantly, tests provide an opportunity for tangible measuring of progress in a way that teacher feedback and comments don’t quite meet. For example, a child being able to see that over the space of a term they’ve moved from a 4b to a 4a or 3a to a 4c is such an amazing boost for them and I’ve seen the fruits of that this week. The beaming smiles plastered across the faces of many of my children has been so uplifting and it’s purely because they’ve seen for themselves how much their hard work has paid off.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not flying the flag for SATS. I’m not suddenly saying that this week has been brilliantly fun. But it has been eminently valuable and the children have benefited hugely from it.
When this government (or the next!) introduces a replacement system for SATS in the next academic year and the shape of Year 6 looks slightly different, I will be really intrigued to see what place formal tests have at the end of primary school.
Will teaching change as a result? Ultimately, it’s about giving children a platform to progress, imbuing them with a love of learning and equipping them for life. If tests give them the confidence to do this even more, then I’m happy to go along with them.