SATS: To stay or to go?

Labour want to scrap SATS for primary pupils. A good move or not? There is no doubt that SATS have developed a bad reputation, mainly because many schools have given in to the temptation to teach for the test, rather than in the interests of each pupil’s individualised learning. SATS has also developed into a means of assessing school performance. Within this collective whole – where has individual performance gone? It could be argued that SATS have tempted schools to focus more on those pupils who are more likely to obtain good scores: thus neglecting pupils who have less chance to perform well in the tests.

But are SATS totally bad? Are they at least a way of assessing how children have done? How far do schools follow up SAT (or other test) results for individuals who need more intense attention? Schools must have some way of assessing learning for all children. Maybe it is not the SATS themselves that are at fault – but the failure to scrutinise the results and act accordingly.

What SATS have done is forced many schools to focus on the surface of education. The revised curriculum has attempted to introduce richness and depth into learning. But time is always too short for the ‘deep diving’ that real learning needs. Pupils must be allowed to explore, examine, discover and make meaningful connections within and between concepts – in order to problem-solve. Eureka is missing! Teaching to the tests ignores this vital aspect of a fully rounded education. Not only that, many pupils find school boring! Why? Learning should be fun and inspiring. Learning should stimulate and awaken young minds: open up possibilities for their futures. For many children it does the opposite. They are turned off and disengaged.

So whether SATS are scrapped or not – we must nevertheless do something to reawaken the true meaning of learning for our children. Above all schools must become a place where kids want to go because exciting things happen. A place where their minds are set on fire sometimes. Teaching for the SATS pours cold water on the excitement of learning.

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