I remember the stress of the year 6 SATs so well. All four of our children found the pressure excruciating despite the school being adamant there was no pressure. YEAH RIGHT!
Three of our four children have additional needs and so, of course, this made things a little more tricky. I remember the tears and meltdowns like it was yesterday. For me the biggest shock was when our son who doesn’t have any additional needs and is usually very calm came home from school and collapsed through the door, laying on the floor in tears. He was crying that he just couldn’t take any more and hated school. Now, this was a child who academically was doing well and had fantastic social and emotional skills.
His brother was also struggling with the SATs and we had been to the school on several occasions to request that he not be entered into the reading comprehension paper. He has severe dyslexia and at the time was a good five years behind his peers in reading ability. We could not understand what good it would do presenting him with a paper that he would not be able to read or understand. His self-esteem was already in his boots, the last thing he needed was extra pressure. The answer we were given was that he didn’t meet the requirement to be exempt as he scored 1 extra mark on the test they conduct to check for withdrawal. Personally, I think the school missed a big opportunity here to raise his self-esteem. They could have said, we saw how well you did on the pre-SATs test and so you don’t have to take the main test.
No, it all goes down as the school’s figures and they didn’t want to take the hit on their data, our child had lost his identity, his emotional wellbeing was given a lesser priority to the school’s data. We discussed not sending him to school and were told they would come to the house to collect him. Now anyone with a child with additional needs knows that would not end well. We were backed into a corner and so as his parents, we took the time to build his self-esteem and tell him all the things tests didn’t see. We made a wooden gumball machine and I have to say it was really good. Again the tests didn’t see that craftsmanship because there was no mention of a relative subordinate clause.
This was not the first year as a family we had experienced the madness of SATs, our daughter has ASD and dyscalculia and at the time of her taking the year 6 SATs, she was not even able to count the dots on two dice. Before the SATs, I got called into the school as they were concerned at her attitude towards the questions. The question they were referring to was ‘How many 3’s are there in 606’ to which she answered 0. She wasn’t trying to be clever, she was right, not her fault that the question was not worded correctly. Anyhow amazingly when her maths results came back she had gained above average. It was her choice to open the envelope with the results in. I personally wanted to chuck it in the bin as to me the grades didn’t matter and I didn’t want to know. However, right away we knew that these results were not a true representation of her true abilities. It turned out that she took her SATs in a room on her own and every time she asked for help to answer a question she was given a sweet!!
This is just so wrong and just should not be allowed. She was delighted with her grade and got very cross at us for questioning the grade.
Primary schools seem to elevate grades (lots of schools do this), be it by intensive 1:1 or extra time working in small groups, the sad reality of this is that the only ones that struggle are the children. They are transitioned to secondary school with an unfair grade to strive towards.
Our daughter was tested again at secondary school and was absolutely devastated to have her maths grade as she saw it plummet. She felt like a failure and has spent the last 4 years chasing the above average standard that she achieved in her SATs. Imagine for 4 years being told you are work lower than your expected grade.
Our eldest son took his GCSE’s last year and yes he found them stressful but not nearly as much as the SATs and this year is the turn of our daughter. She is nervous but again the stress in the house is nowhere near as high as when she took the SATs. We are keeping everything crossed for her that she will get her maths but one thing is for sure there won’t be anyone giving her sweets this time round.
If the government is not going to get rid of SATs, which would be my wish, I would like there to be some accountability put on primary schools. There should be questions asked for all these children who are put through so much stress at just 10 or 11, their grades are elevated and then their self-esteem crushed when they can’t work to the same expected standards at secondary school age. If the grade level cannot be transferred from one school to another then the skill is not mastered. This makes a total mockery of the SATs and proves that the stress our children are put under is absolutely unnecessary. So I say make primary schools accountable for the grades of scrap the SATs completely.