Wake up! We’re doing this.

I’m not going to comment much on this. This is simply a list of tweets and messages I’ve had from parents this week.

  1. Week before sats my daughter had a meltdown, We were away with family. “I can’t take it I can’t take it I can’t take it” it was late at night and we couldn’t get through to her.
  2. I’m worried about my daughter’s mental health, she is already coming home crying about SATs and she’s in y5.
  3. At my son’s secondary school there was club in Year 7 only for kids who did well in their SATS. They went on trips and had a range of opportunities that the other didn’t have access to.
  4. Son’s school has ‘potential high achievers’ – I was naive enough to think that every student is a potential high achiever. Son has never been on a trip, been there almost 2 yrs.
  5. My 11 year old grandson, who has always been ok in English and excellent in Maths and Science, was taken out of a science lesson each fortnight for an English ‘intervention.’ Under new standards in the new curriculum, his English skills are now deemed to be weak; he won’t reach the expected standard in the English SATs. Double whammy. Extra lessons in a subject that does not enthuse him but which he was doing alright in at the expense of one of his favourite subjects.
  6. The KS2 grades were my bete noir all through our middle child’s schooling because everytime I raised concerns that she was drifting the teacher would quote the KS2 grades and show me graphs extrapolated from them to ‘prove’ that my daughter was on track. So they were expecting C’s. In year 11 teachers suddenly started saying, “We hadn’t realised she was so able. She could get an A!’ But it was far far too late.
  7. His school has been working on not much else but SATs for months. Too depressing.
  8.  (At a) painful meeting with Heads to tell them why I was pulling her out, they countered she would miss the school trip to theme park and as soon as she returned to school she’d have to take them. That made me speechless.
  9. My oldest got top results in SATS & referral to CAMHS with severe anxiety. Worst year of our lives.I’d back any parent boycotting them.
  10. When daughter 2 went to secondary she was set according to her SATS & the ceiling for her progress was set. The message she got was there’s no point trying because teachers don’t believe I can do it.
  11. My daughter suffered a massive panic attack this evening in direct relation to these and I had to rush her to the doctors – and I am desperately seeking information on what I can do for her. She suffers with anxiety anyhow, and even though she’s meeting the standard for her english, she has been told by her teacher (on parents evening) that it isn’t good enough as she only just scraped through, and how will her fail in maths look on the league table?  Passing her english has been like climbing Everest for her, and this has totally crushed her.

And a couple from teachers:-

  1. One of our kids wrote”I’m dumb”all over the last few pages of her Maths reasoning paper. We spent all year convincing her she’s good at Maths
  2. I had to calm down & a counsel a year 6 girl on Wednesday who had a severe anxiety attack, couldn’t stop sobbing because of the fear of opening the maths reasoning paper & not being able to do it. Was all I could do not to cry seeing her like this.

There are dozens more of these stories. Not a single one of us went into teaching to be the other person on the end of these tales. A system that puts so much pressure on us that our values warp and we become blind to the impact we have needs to be changed. We need to wake up and act.

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14 thoughts on “Wake up! We’re doing this.

  1. SATs have no educational value – they should be scrapped. But this won’t happen unless a tipping point of parents, carers, grandparents etc write to their MPs. Schools are legally bound to do the SATs so it would be a brave head or governing body who would boycott them as was done in 2010. But heads do have the power to minimise the effect of these tests by not spending time on preparation. The trouble is that when children get poorer results than their over-prepared peers in other schools they’re likely to think they’re dumb. And secondary schools are likely to stick them in lower sets which reinforces the feeling of failure.

  2. To be fair the entire system needs a restructure.
    GCSEs were a school leaving qualification, but no one leaves school at 16. We need a complete overhaul.
    I propose middle schools from y5-9. You can still have a small English and maths test at the end of year 4 but with strict regulations and safeguards in place to stop stress being passed from teachers to students.
    Again an English and maths test at the end of year 9 to determine either an academic or vocational pathway for 14-19 education.

    1. Yes, I agree. A school stock of 11-16 provision and 16-19 provision has made reform of GCSEs much more difficult. In systems with elementary, middle and high school provision, it’s been easier to take that old layer of end assessment out.

    2. I couldn’t agree about an exam at 14 to divide students into ‘academic’or ‘vocational ‘ pathways. Doing this in Y9 has always been a really bad idea. It should be noted that the government’s 14+ ‘vocational academies have been massive failures. All students should be entitled to a full broad and balanced education to at least age 16. There is a much better solution to these issues and it works. See

      https://rogertitcombelearningmatters.wordpress.com/2017/09/14/there-is-another-way-and-it-appears-to-work/

  3. Parents have a moral responsibility to withdraw their child from the SATs tests if they judge them to be at risk. This is, however, forcing them to take action for which they have no guarantee will lead to a happy outcome. There is an alternative. That is to call on the teacher unions to boycott the tests and demand they be ditched. That will tell us whether they care as much as the parents here about the wellbeing of children. I believe this would be a wake-up call for those who currently mismanage the education of a whole generation. In the meantime, I suggest parents check whether the secondary school their child will attend in September administer Cognitive Ability tests at the start of Yr7.

    I have written to my MP informing him that 70% of the high schools in my local authority are employing Cognitive Ability testing with the whole Yr7 cohort at the start of the year. One head explained they do so because they have difficulty relying on the scores from the SATs to set Attainment and Progress 8 targets for GCSEs. My impression is, he is not alone in concluding this. If I had a child struggling to cope with the pressure of sitting these high stakes test I would withdraw them from the process if the destination school used CATs. By doing so, the child does not lose out.

    The initial response from my MP is that the matter of additional costs and the shocking duplication of effort has been referred to the Secretary of State. I expect a detailed response in due course. This, from Nancy Bailey in the US, is an indication that things can get even worse for children if we don’t wake up and act soon. Where the American system goes, we usually follow.

    As to the rest, I’m running out of excuses for professional colleagues who behave atrociously. I’m not sure exactly when it (turning the blind eye as in these accounts) got up such a head of steam, but recent events have taken it to a whole new level where some who claim to be professional educators are not fit to be regarded as such. Children are our collective responsibility. Calling people to account for inhuman and inappropriate sanctions against children is also our collective responsibility.

    It’s too much to expect the political classes, with their short-term agendas and their flawed vision of education to act in anyone’s interests but their own. You are so right, Debra, the system has to change. If we are to do this, we need to harness the energy of parents. They need reliable information. They need to know that these unacceptable behaviours are not typical of a whole profession. Those of us who think this kind of behaviour has no place in our education system have to speak out on their behalf. Also, it’s time to end the present system of education governance where the party in power can do, and mainly does, what it likes. There is simply too much at stake if we don’t do this.

  4. Unfortunately it is the same story at GCSE. As a Head of Y11 at a large secondary school, I am seeing a range of responses to the pressure of the new exam-based system on a daily basis. These responses range from full-blown panic attacks that paralyse and then cause the student to collapse, to more students than ever who are having to sit their exams in small rooms or with extra support. It is unsustainable – there are not enough staff in schools with the appropriate training to support our young people & CAMHS will not accept the referrals or offer support.

    1. I’ve had lots of people who support SATs make the case that they are good preparation for GCSE. Their argument seems to centre around “Where does this stop? If you take them out of SATS, what next, GCSEs?! Hmm??? Well???” – you know the beetroot faced, huffy puffy type you get on social media. What they don’t seem to understand is that the changes to GCSE have raised the stakes to the highest level they have ever been. One chance. A ridiculous number of exams crammed into the shortest possible period. Not a single one of those people had to sit exams in those conditions and yet they will use every tool to dismiss this level of distress. The children are snowflakes. It’s the fault of over anxious parents/teachers. There is not enough ‘compelling’ evidence for a rise in mental health problems…etc etc. This dismissal is nothing short of neglect. There is another way. We only have to look around the world to see that there are many other ways.

      1. Few other countries have so many high-stakes exams at 16. If exams are taken at the end of lower secondary (age 15/16), then these are few in number, confined to core subjects and used (usually in consultation with teachers) to decide upper secondary progression. Yet the Gov’t maintains the fiction that GCSE ‘reform’ brings England in line with high-performing countries (it doesn’t http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2017/12/out-of-date-and-unreliable-dfe-info-comparing-englands-exam-system-with-other-countries)
        It’s time to move towards graduation at 18 via multiple routes including GCSEs (which could be taken more flexibility and NOT used to judge schools) and vocational exams http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/06/lets-move-towards-graduation-at-18.

    2. Hello, Jeanette, I’m curious to know if your school uses Cognitive Ability tests. If so, may I ask why you do this and whether you use them with the whole Yr7 cohort. I’m trying to understand how prevalent this practice is so would be glad to hear from others. It is happening and we should be asking why if the existing SATs are fit for purpose. My feeling is that a majority of parents are unaware of why this is happening. Many might be disturbed to realise their kids are being treated as cannon fodder in a war to keep the SATs when they seem to serve little apparent purpose.

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