Last week saw the end of Year 2 and Year 6 SATs, which means that all over the country children as young as 6 have been faced with increased pressure and growing anxiety. It makes many of us wonder, are our children being tested too much and is it having a damaging impact on them?
After a hardworking and emotional past few months, I recently had my final tutoring session with a group of year 6s and it got me thinking. Week after week, they have worked hard to master a range of things that they have been tested on in their SATs papers. We have had many ‘eureka moments’ (they are now masters at division!) and some heartfelt discussions and worries too.
The sense of achievement when they were able to implement a new skill was a pleasure to witness but one child in my group said something that struck me. “If we get it wrong in our test, you won’t be there to help us do it right. If we fail, all this will be pointless because I’ll just look stupid”. Testing can put a roadblock in the endless journey of learning. She was right, there is no room for errors in a test and because of this, she felt that she could be defined as a failure. Of course, we then paused our SPAG practice and had a fantastic team talk about how all they needed to do was their best and not to put pressure on themselves (sentences that I’m sure parents and teachers all over the country have on repetition right now!). As an adult, it is hard enough to self regulate and to not put too much pressure on ourselves, so why are we opting to put children as young as 6 under these demands?
An increasing number of teachers and parents are of the opinion that all this testing means that children are no longer children- they are data. There have been a large number of studies from influential education platforms such as Tes and The National Education Union highlighting that SATs cause an unnecessary amount of pressure on children and have few benefits. In the last few years, there have been multiple cases of parents protesting against SATs with some even pulling their children out of school.
It makes you wonder, what’s the purpose? Gone are the days where the government trusted teacher judgement when assessing a child. Children are continuously assessed throughout their schooling- teachers asses during and after every single lesson. This assessment informs planning and next steps and therefore, truly helps children to progress. Unlike SATs which are not much more than a memory test.
SATs are meant to ‘make comparisons between children against the average attainment expectations for their respective age group.’ Do we not already compare children enough already? And what about those children who will never meet the ‘national attainment expectations’ for Maths and English? There are no tests to make them feel successful. Instead, the educational climate that we are currently living in, strive to make those ‘less academic children’ feel like failures. Those children could be future Olympians, Oscar winners or top designers but may end up feeling unworthy because they failed a test when they were in year 2 and 6.
The education system needs a shakeup. There are high expectations for children to perform well in their SATs yet school budgets are constantly being cut making it even harder to get children to their expected levels. The sole focus of education should be to ensure a safe, happy, engaging environment where children enjoy learning and are able to consistently progress in a range of areas and feel successful.
Unfortunately, for the time being, it looks like SATs are here to stay. However providing we teach our children to self-love, have confidence and remind them that they are superstars no matter their test result, we will inspire a generation who will not let a test dampen their spirit or define their future.