SATs are a way of helping children succeed

SATs are a way of helping children succeed

A survey of primary headteachers published today shows that an overwhelming majority of them think SATs as too stressful for teachers and the children.

It doesn’t matter how many of them decry the use of SATs the fact is independent verification of how children are performing is essential if we’re to ensure young people reach their full potential.

For too long, thanks to progressive teaching; standards at primary school level had dropped significantly.

This meant far too many children were starting secondary school not grasping even the basics in numeracy and literacy. If a child has not reached a standard level by age 11 they will not cope at secondary school and will eventually leave at 16 without the qualifications they need.

To ensure generations of children are not let down accountability is essential.

How can the government or anybody else know what is really going on in schools unless it is independently measured? We cannot measure improvement or a fall in standards without exam intervention.

The idea of relying solely on teachers’ assessments when they are not standardised nationally is ludicrous – it would be like someone marking their own homework and we know what that would lead to.

In the past, there were no national assessments and secondary schools could only work out how to set the children by testing them in year 7. The information they received from primary schools was important but not nationally calibrated.

Also, we cannot achieve anything without pressure. Are we advocating the abolition of all examinations because they are difficult and cause us stress? When we put athletes through training and competition their performance improves. Actors who only rehearse but never face an audience will fail to reach the great heights of performance adrenaline and stress produces.

If we follow the logic of the arguments put forward by these headteachers, we would spend our lives avoiding everything that is difficult. 

There has been a tendency among those on the progressive wing of education to argue against testing in favour of a far looser approach to assessment. This is because the teaching of core skills is associated with a more traditional approach and they oppose this.

However, the progressive approach leads to a sense of drift where the emphasis on core skills is dwarfed by ‘exploration’. This held sway in the educational system in the UK right up to the introduction of the new National Curriculum in 2014. Since then things have improved and we should not return to something that failed previously. 

Less accountability leads to laxity – without proper monitoring, the standards will drift. There may be some in education who prefer no monitoring because it means they cannot be held to account.

But the most important thing in all of this is ensuring we teach children to an acceptable standard that will help them achieve well in life. To not do that would be failing those children.