Another one for the parents and carers!

Good morning/afternoon/evening (I don't know when you're reading this)!  I have decided to focus another week's post on the parents and carers of our nation's children.  I decided to become a teacher when I was 7 and as such have spent most of my life either preparing for it or living it.  A lot of you guys out there... not so much!  Being a teacher/parent is tough so I want to reiterate my previous sentiment: you're doing fine!

The three most important things you can do right now are:

  • Tell your children you love them.
  • Let your children know you care.
  • Hug your children.

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The SATs are NOT happening this year
If you want to know how your child would have done, I can help
The intended outcome was never about testing the children

If you have lost your temper recently, that's okay (I mean, don't hit them or bellow unnecessarily or anything).  Explain the reasons.  This is different from justifying or pandering.  Kids are very understanding and if you explain the amount of pressure you're under and the reasons why you needed some space/peace and quiet/alone time, they'll get it.  They may even help and offer good suggestions.

There are many times when I have been in a bad mood at the beginning of the school day (usually because of another adult).  The kids come in, all smiles and eagerness, and my face is like thunder.  

I've tried different approaches to this situation.  The first one was to try to ignore my own emotional state (the old 'leave your feelings at the door' routine).  It did not work. Externally I was forcing smiles; internally I wanted to die.  That kind of stuff comes out eventually.

The second way was to tell the children, right off the bat before the register, that I was in a bad mood.  That it wasn't their fault and that they had my permission to remind me of that if I barked a little bit.  I reassured them that I would get over it and reminded them that it wasn't their fault.

That second way has never failed.  Usually, after 20 minutes of a lovely relaxed atmosphere, I'm happier than I was to begin with (before someone had... annoyed me). 

Even if it is their fault; just tell them.  Ideally do this in a calm, matter-of-fact way, and be sure to recognise that it is the behaviour that you are unimpressed with and not the child.  I know that sounds very hippy-ish and flouncy, but it is so important for a child to know.

Anyway, that's not what I wanted to talk to you about today.  Today I wanted to talk to you about...


Yes, those compulsory End of Key Stage 2 Standardised Assessment Tests that we all know and love.  Full disclosure: I actually quite like the SATs - not the way a lot of schools go about it, don't get me wrong.  I think teaching to the test is abysmal and damaging.  I think placing undue pressure on the children (you need to do well... or else) is abhorrent.  I think the misunderstood point of the tests is shameful.  But the tests themselves are fine.

The maths tests have been improved greatly since 2014 and the Punctuation, Grammar and spelling are easily done.  The reading comprehension test needs work (read more about my opinion on that one in my article for the TES, here) but I've been looking into these tests for a while now (they're forming the basis of my thesis at the moment) and they're not the monster people have painted them to be.

But hey, that doesn't even matter this year because THEY'RE NOT HAPPENING!

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Even if the schools do reopen in May, as the Government have suggested this morning (16th April), the STA (the people who write the tests) have cancelled all compulsory testing.  That means no Reading Comprehension, no maths, no SPaG, not even any teacher-assessment!  Result!  Or is it?  What does no final outcome mean for your child's transition into Secondary school?

Probably not very much.  

Seriously.  Most Secondary schools in the country test their new cohorts in September anyway (because a lot can happen over the 6-week Summer break).  A lot of the grammar and independent schools will have already tested and filtered their new intake as far back as January.  Realistically, the only impact your child not sitting their SATs will have is on their school's placement in the National League Table... which is not being published this year.

So... if it's that unimportant, why don't we just scrap them permanently?

I hear you.  It is a bit of a tough one to defend, to be fair, but I don't think they should be scrapped altogether.  I know the KS3 SATs were canned (because they were considered too close to the GCSEs... which look to be in danger themselves), and the KS1 SATs have been diluted down to a shadow of their former self (I don't have a problem with that)... but look at what's (gradually) replacing them: baseline tests for 5-year-olds.  Admittedly, nothing has replaced the KS3 SATs, but as I said, they have the GCSEs to act as an assessment to the end of a Key Stage of learning.

The Government need a way to justify the public money spent on schools.  The SATs are a way of doing that.  It's a shame but the official intended outcomes of the tests are to:

  • hold schools accountable for the attainment and progress made by their pupils
  • inform parents and secondary schools about the performance of individual pupils
  • enable benchmarking between schools, as well as monitoring performance locally and nationally

(Standards and Testing Agency, 2014)

That's it.  I shudder to think of the possible replacements (be under no illusion, if the SATs go, they will be replaced and it's rarely with something less onerous).  

The frustrating thing is that we do need to know what the children have learned by the end of Key Stage 2, and how well the schools are delivering the curriculum.  Whatever side of the political debate you're on, you can't deny that public money is spent on education (not enough, too much, just the right amount?  I'm not here to say) and as such, the public have a right to know how much value that money is getting.  How else can you ascribe value if not through performance and quantifiable results?

I'm actually asking!  I'd love to hear your thoughts on that one.  

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Having said that... the SATs don't have to stay as they are.  Too many schools place immense pressure on teachers and children (and parents, come to that) to outperform and excel.  I've always told my classes the truth: the SATs are a measure of progress for the school; not for them.  I've encouraged the children to do their best for themselves and to enjoy it.  

And believe or not... they do.  I've never had any tears or tantrums.  I've never had a child miss school for being ill through stress.  I've never treated the SATs as life-or-death, make-or-break monsters to conquer.  We've just had fun and ensured that, all year long, we are learning.

Anyway, all of that was to say that there are no Key Stage 2 SATs this year.  However, if you would like to know how your child would have done, I can help.  Get in touch for a free (depending on the level of feedback you're after) link to last year's SATs papers and some information on how to 'administer' your own assessment.  It won't be official but it will be as close as you can get for this academic year.

Just before I go...
I've used the phrase Key Stage a lot this week.  Now, I usually write for teachers, so they know what I'm talking about.  If you are wondering what Key Stages are; where they came from; what they actually mean, check out my post next week.  I'll be diving into the fun world of Education Philosophy and the origins of these phrases: Unlocking the Key Stages will be posted next Wednesday!

Look after yourselves and hug your children!

air hugs

Carl Headley-Morris