This year is an exception again, with the state sector once more free from the routine of SATs testing. After an extensive career in primary teaching, I am certainly not alone in questioning the true purpose that they serve.
A teacher should, first and foremost, know the children that they teach well. Effective assessment will enable that specialist, who has a profound understanding of how children learn, to tailor what a child needs to learn next. As such, the assessment must be accurate and, moreover, regular.
SATs testing takes place once. One specific test, on one specific day; what if you aren’t terribly well that day? What if you slept badly? What if you mis-read a question by accident? What if the style of test doesn’t suit your learning style? The results are used to gauge how well a school is teaching; at their basis, these tests are not even about the child, but rather about the school, so why should our children be used as a vehicle for that? I firmly believe that there are far better ways to see the efficiency of a school. Moreover, the pressure for success in these tests for the state-sector leaves many schools feeling forced to forgo the entire period of Year 6 to a process of revision, based on short-term recall of those elements needed to ‘pass’ the test; Can this really be classed as learning? Where are the learning skills? Where is the genuine growth in knowledge, understanding and ability?
At Leweston Prep, we entirely reject the model, leaving our pupils free from the rigmarole. Instead of SATs testing in late May, we take advantage of the quiet period and book a residential facility for our pupils, which we tend to get all to ourselves. There is something gleeful about knowing that whilst the rest of the Country are sitting their SATs, our pupils are flying down abseiling lines, or climbing towers.
Without the pressure to revise for a single test, we re-gain a whole year for genuine learning. We introduce our Year 6 pupils to Shakespeare, delve into Year 7 style Geography projects, take public speaking awards, examine trade processes, and so much more. Our pupils develop the key learning skills that they need for success, in its widest possible terms. Without the pupils knowing, we informally assess them every step of the way, tailoring our provision to stretch them just enough.
At the end of the school year, our teacher assessment grades are triangulated by a stand-alone test, called INCAS. The pupils make no preparation for this, and it is done with no pressure. Consistently, these demonstrate that our pupils out-perform local and national expectations; reached in an entirely different way, and most importantly, reached without destroying a child’s love of learning in the process.
Miss Phillips, Leweston Prep Head.