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Last year (2015) brought us a General Election and an election always brings with it an overhaul of the education system. As we approach 9 months of the Conservative government being in power, we thought it was a good time to have a round up on testing legislation for children of primary school age and look at both sides of the argument for more rigorous testing.
What are SATS? (Standard Assessment Tests)
SATS are given at the end of year 2, year 6 and year 9. They are used to show a child’s progress compared with other children born in the same month. The average score for each age group on an assessment is set at 100 and the standard deviation at 15. For any age group a given numerical value has the same meaning in terms of standing relative to the group.
There’s currently a key difference between the two tests as seen below:
SATs for 7 year olds (Year 2)
SATs take place in year 2 (at the end of infants) throughout May. Each child is teacher assessed in Reading, Writing, Maths and Science. The class teacher sets short pieces of work in English and Maths to judge what level of ability each child is considered to be.
SATs for 11 year olds (Year 6)
SATs for Year 6 pupils take place in May and are far more formal than Key Stage 1, hence their publicity for being stressful. Again core subjects tested are: English, Maths and Science. The papers are sent away to be marked with results being available before the children leave primary school in July.
Additionally, the Conservatives announced in April 2015 that pupils who fail their SATs in Year 6 will be required to re-sit them in their first year of secondary school (Year 7).
The arguments for and against more rigorous testing
Many parents and teachers will be dismayed by the news, wondering why test children more and impose such stress at such a young age. The current system tests are done on a class level which is in theory less stressful for teachers, parents and pupils.
Politicos are aghast and dismayed at the scheme as a very expensive alternative to allowing qualified experienced teachers to simply make the assessments.
The government’s rationale behind rigorous national testing of 7 year olds in place of classroom teacher-led assessments is to eliminate the possibility of favouritism in the current system where classroom teachers make the assessments. This in turn ought to improve reliability of scores and provide a better predictor of progress to the next test point in Year 6.
The issue of Year 6 pupils who failed their SATs having to re-sit in Year 7 may not be as black and white as it sounds either.
The rationale behind this is that statistically, we know that pupils who fail their SATS go on to score poorly at GCSE, therefore the sooner the issues can be picked up, the sooner interventions can be put in place.
The human side of the argument remains that relentless tests, especially if the outcome regularly looks poor, can stress out pupils and affect self-esteem, which could exacerbate the problem of achievement rather than help alleviate it.
One thing is for certain: teachers, parents and politicians will all dive into the debate as this interesting year in primary education unfolds.