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SATs resits – not a good idea!

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“To ensure fair selection, you all get the same test. You all have to climb that tree.” The SATs are not a fair test!

Will the government’s bad decisions regarding the SATs never end?? It seems not, now that they are saying that students who don’t do well in their 11+ exams next year will be made to resit them in December , in Year 7 of secondary school.

So what do they expect students to learn in their first 3 months of secondary school that they haven’t learnt in 6 years of primary school? Secondary school is supposed to be a fresh start, where children are meant to fall in love with new subjects taught by specialist teachers. Now, in Maths and English, the classes will need to be split or timetabled differently for the students giving the SATs again. So they are singled out from their peers, branded as failures, either miss the first term of these classes or take on additional classes, effectively ruining the experience of secondary school for them. But what other option do these schools and teachers have if these resits are dumped into their laps?

Unless the implication is that this gives the students more time to study – at home or at a tutorial like mine. This would mean that the onus of effort is on students and parents, when the SATs are supposed to be all about the standards of the schools. It is a decision that makes very little sense when you think it through. Yet again, it is putting pressure on teachers to teach to a test; not to mention a test that has nothing to do with the current school in which the student is studying. It is passing the parcel of the problem of a ticking time bomb.
As a head teacher said in The Guardian, these compulsory initiatives don’t necessarily come with additional resources. So, it is an additional burden and responsibility on an already stretched secondary educational system, without any apparent benefit or kudos if the students do well! The government claims that this resit is to ensure high levels of numeracy and literacy. However, a recent OECD report (http://www.theguardian.com/ed
ucation/2013/oct/08/england-young-people-lea580_Image_Numeracy_and_Literacy_Framework_Wales16-021047gue-table-basic-skills-oecd
) has shown that England is the only country in the developed world where the generation close to retirement has better literacy and numeracy skills than the generation just out of schools. This means that the education of the past though outdated and inadequate in many ways, was still doing its job better than education today.

The key words here are quality of educatio
n. This means teachers get more time to teach, the pedagogy is based on evidence-based research, the curriculum focuses on basics rather than rushing through the syllabus, and testing is not used as a proxy for quality. Education can be of high quality without a focus on teaching to the test – see the much-touted example of Finland’s past record in the PISA tests (http://www.ncee.org/2014/02/global-perspectives-pasi-sahlberg-on-finlands-pisa-rankings/ ).

Top 10 countries in the 2012 PISA tests

Top 10 countries in the 2012 PISA tests

However, even if the government looks to emulate the consistently excellent performance of East Asian ‘Tigers’ like Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore, there needs to be a real focus on solid teaching, not just a focus on test scores. It is a well-known fact that children who master basics and problem solving skills are able to do well in any test, without necessarily swotting or cramming for  exam questions. Like our grandmothers used to say, take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves. The government needs to focus on giving teachers and schools the guidance and support they actually need, rather than continually cutting resources while also demanding results.

If you absolutely have to have resits why can’t they be scheduled for Year 8? It would give the schools and teachers in secondary school (and parents and children) a chance to catch their breath, get used to a new school system and actually have time to teach or learn something. Instead, this knee-jerk reaction of more testing is like continually band-aiding the symptoms, without treating the infection.

When will the government learn that more testing is not the same as better education? Would you like your child to be the one removed from a Year 7 class to go for resist classes? Don’t you think students deserve a fresh start in secondary school, without the ghosts of SATs-past following them there? If you agree with me, or even more importantly, if you don’t, please comment and let’s start a timely discussion.

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