Children should sit SATs – but the grades used are useless

Children should sit SATs – but the grades used are useless

The government is committed to holding SATs exams for Year 6 students next year – and it is the right thing to do.

Testing children is crucial and the damage the lack of exams has caused over the last year will only become apparent in the future.

SATs are important because they should give accurate and detailed information to secondary schools about the children who will be joining them.

This allows the school to plan the year ahead and help ensure the children get what they require for their education.

It also ought to mean that parents have an accurate picture of how their children are performing, and where they stand.

But there is a major problem with SATs – and that is the grading system used to mark them.

Previously, in the two core subjects of English and Maths, grades usually ranged between Level 3 and Level 6. And these were further broken down into a, b and c grades within each Level.

It meant there were 12 possible grades a child could achieve – a detailed assessment that gave schools and parents important knowledge about numeracy and literacy levels.

However, this simple, accurate and useful grading system has been replaced by something that makes taking SATs almost worthless.

Children now receive one of three ‘grades’: working above national standard, working at national standard and working below national standard.

Those with more than 80 per cent receive the top grade and those with below 40 per cent receive the lowest grade.

Everyone else is in the middle, with marks ranging between 41 per cent and 79 per cent. This helps no one.

One wonders why the previous, sensible and useful system was replaced with something clunky and hopeless. I could drive 15 buses through the middle grade.

My feelings are that it is the result of a compromise between the government, which wanted to retain SATs, and the progressive educationalists and teachers’ unions that wanted them abolished.

Now we have a system that neither wanted. And there is a cost implication too. SATs need setting and marking but if the results are worthless then spending money on them is pointless.

The new grading system also means the work that children have put in and the effort to construct the tests is basically wasted.

Secondary Schools have little idea of the ability of the children who walk through their gates in September, and parents will have no idea how their children have performed.

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.