Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Slopes and SATs

I hate hills. Or to be more specific; I hate slopes. Hills I just don't bother with. There's no point in trying. Slopes are deceptive. They don't look all that different from friendly flat ground. They lie! The difference they make is ridiculous. I genuinely think that it is at least 10 times more difficult for me to walk a slope than a stretch of bog standard, lovingly tarmacked pavement. I went to the library today; parked me car; walked down the small slope; did my library thang and walked back up said slope. Gah. It's hardly a steep incline but it was enough for my legs to scream and the rest of my body to give up on me for a few minutes. When I rule the world, I shall make everything flat. Well, maybe we can keep some pretty mountains but I'll need to get escalators installed. Although thinking about it, standing up for a long time will still be a problem. Darn it! My amazing plan has failed at the first hurdle.

No matter, I have a new project: the abolition of Sats. For any Americans reading I should clarify that British SATs are not the same as US SATs. I'm not entirely sure what American SATs are (I only have TV and films to go by - they seem to be some sort of test taken before you go to college or university) but they are most definitely different from the British version. SATs are tests taken by kids in England and Wales at the ages of 7, 11 and 14. They are taken in Science, Maths and English and are in theory designed to assess the level of attainment that each child has reached. In practice SATs have become less and less about the children and more and more about each school's position in the national league tables.

I agree that children should be continually assessed and tested up to a point. However, I don't believe that SATs are the way to do that and I certainly have problems with the pressure that schools put on pupils in order to reach their targets. My biggest quibble is with the Key Stage 3 exams taken at the age of 14. They appear to be utterly pointless. Once a child gets to secondary school he or she is given exams in almost every subject at the end of every single year. That is important and necessary; examinations from within the school help teachers to identify problem areas and individuals that are struggling. SATs are useless for this. The teachers don't set the questions nor do they mark the papers. I do not know if the papers are made available to teachers after marking but either way the SATs tests do nothing to improve the teachers' awareness of each child's standard of work.

The SATs system does also include teacher assessments. That's great, but it still doesn't give a real argument for the tests. GCSE and A level results can be used to distinguish the good schools from the bad. SATs results are unnecessary. Teachers end up teaching their pupils how to do well in the exams rather than using that time to inspire young minds. Children are given the impression that these exams are incredibly important when in actual fact they are insanely trivial.

This has all been brought to my mind by the reports in the media that MPs from the Commons School Select Committee are calling for the tests for 11 and 14 year-olds to be scrapped. Hurrah! Sad to say it will probably be a long time before anything is actually done about it, but at least someone has started to take notice. SATs are a waste of time, money and teachers.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Couldn't agree more. Since the introduction of league tables etc education has become more about the school than the pupils. Kids are taught facts in order to pass exams, rather than being taught to think about stuff.

For example I give you RE. The kids I come into contact with through my job all believe that "there ain't no God". Why not? "There just ain't" is the response. They can tell you what the holy days for each religion are, but they can't articulate why they do/don't believe in a god. They'll pass their SATS, but they won't be able to think through the issues at all.

Glad to hear that something might be done to get rid of the SATS!