“I think that a good flogging should improve your SATs scores!!”
The literati illuminati of childrens’ fiction have come out in favour of dumping those pesky stress-inducing SATs tests.
Firstly, for those of you without children, SATs are the Standard Assessment Tests which are administered to schoolchildren at the end of Year 2, Year 6 and Year 9. They are used as a comparative measure of a child’s progress, relative to other pupils of the same age and at the same stage of education.
They are also the building blocks of those ridiculous School League Tables that fetch up in the newspapers from time to time.
That is their supposed primary function but these tests have also enabled the Government to install several strata of technician, advisor and manager within the Education system. These people tend to reside somewhere within County Hall.
Removing SATs needs a great deal of care because there is a vast number of Education Authority employees who analyse, advise, programme, collate and type. They would cost a fortune to remove.
Many are overpaid for the job they do – you can tell that from their ill-fitting designer suits and 3-series BMWs (a very popular car within the Education Industry). There are travelling allowances, meal allowances, pensions contributions and all the other paraphenalia and perquisites of the modern Education system. Every school either has its own advisor or shares one with another school.
I resigned from the Governorship of a school after one of these BMW-driving Boss-suited funsters arrived at our school in order to talk to us about how we could make the school’s SATs results “work for us”.
In the middle of his Powerpoint presentation, there was a slide showing how our pupils had performed during the last SATs test. The slide consisted of a graph with some dots above the line and some dots below. The dots above the line were the pupils who had exceeded expectations and the ones below the line were the ones with scope for improvement.
He indicated the eight-or-so pupils who were JUST below the line. “These are the ones you need to work on,” he grinned. “Sort these out and the school’s performance will be up by at least 10%!”
I asked the obvious question: “What about those pupils who are a long way below the line. What about them?”
Again he pointed to the slide and the dots just below the line and spoke to me as if I needed a special-needs teaching assistant’s help. “But these are the pupils who, with a bit of work, will get your school up those rankings.” He pointed to the dots that had just managed to squeeze onto the bottom of the slide. ” These won’t help your figures at all.”
He didn’t quite say “Duuuurgh!!!!” but I could see from his perfectly-tanned expression that in different circumstances, I would have been making that stomach-churning journey to the Headteacher’s study.
It was at that precise moment that the scales fell from my eyes. Schooling is all about achieving the best possible place in the table. The education of children is a secondary consideration.
That was the last time that I attended a Governors’ meeting.
There will be resistance to the removal of SATs. Otherwise, where will all those early-retired teachers go? Where will all those teachers and ex-headteachers go to boost their final years’ incomes in order to beef up that tasty final-salary pension scheme just before they retire for “health reasons”. And what about all those BMW dealerships – who will support them?
There are two main lessons to be learned. The first is that it is often easier to build something than it is to dismantle it. The second is that when a Government tells you that it is spending all that additional money on Education – it is not necessarily for the benefit of the children.
There will be resistance to the scrapping of SATs from the Edufatcats at County Hall and there will be resistance from the Ministry for Passing Tests. They are all harbouring under the mistaken belief that there has been an unprecedented improvement in the “three Rs”. Ministers consistently claim that the tests have ushered in the biggest rise in standards in the three Rs in the history of state education. That is a lie.
Teachers often coach their charges through the test. Many other tricks are employed by frightened teachers and schools. They range from sitting clever children next to intellectually-challenged ones, so that copying can take place. Reading exercises are practised months ahead of the test until some children practically know them off by heart. Teachers go through the tests in order to correct any minor errors. There are many more ways that results are augmented.
Ministers know that the system is being abused and the lackeys at County Hall also know what is going on. However, it is not in their interest to change what is essentially a corrupt system.
The paradox is that in spite of the claim that the SAT system has improved Reading , Writing and Arithmetic, there are thousands of children who leave school without being able to read , write and complete simple numeric operations.
How do I know? Not from anecdotal data but from the fact that I have trained (in the workplace) hundreds of post-school and post-university students. The majority cannot read properly, cannot add , multiply, subtract or divide and many cannot string together a grammatically-correct sentence. That is the legacy of several misguided and misinformed Governments who are perpetuating an increasingly unsustainable myth.
Worryingly, there are now children with parents who themselves were victims of this pernicious system. We have a self-amplifying problem, fuelled by delusional politicians and educators with a vested interest.
SATs have to be scrapped now and we must make the switch from Test-Coaching to Education.
Purely as an aside for those of you with children at school or perhaps you will remember this from your own schooldays:
Have you noticed that the children who were the brightest at the age of five remained at the top of the pile all the way up to the time that they left school? Did you also notice that in spite of all the remedial teaching etc. the not-so-gifted child , relatively -speaking, stayed firmly rooted to where they started?
Ask any educator and they will tell you that the best predictor of output in input. If the input is a clever child then the output will be a clever adult. The converse also holds true.
The relative abilities of children are an absolute and not a function of education.