The Dreaded SATS
The Dreaded SATS!
It's that time of year again. Everyone seems to be stressed about it. The head teacher wants good scores for the national league tables. The teachers want to show how good they are. And the children - well, they have been told again and again how important these tests are, so they are desperate to do well, and terrified that they might do poorly.
Some children, of course, love tests and exams. But most would be quite happy to do without them, and some get so stressed by them that it can affect all areas of their lives - and their parents too!
So, if you child is one of these, what can you do to help? SATS
(standardised achievement tests) were introduced as a way of assessing schools rather than children.
The government wanted to answer two questions: how well are the nation's children doing, and how well are individual schools doing? To do this, they test children at age 7 to get a baseline score.
The children are then tested again at age 11. The difference between the two scores is how much the children have learnt through their four years in school and is referred to as the "value added".
The aim is to raise the overall level of education among eleven year old, and SATS give the government a way of measuring this. So how is this relevant to your child? It isn't! The SATS have almost no relevance to an individual child.
The secondary school will not use the SATS scores in planning their teaching - they will do their own assessment of each child. Besides, the scores on the SATS, called levels, are so broad that they do not really tell you how well your child is doing.
The average eleven year old is supposed to score at level 4. But if your child is at level 4 you still have no idea if your child is the high end or low end of average. If your child scores at a lower or higher level, that too is unlikely to be news to you.
Even without the SATS you would almost certainly have known if your child is ahead or behind the rest of the class - and so should the teacher.
So your child's individual SAT scores will not affect his or her education in any way. So what do you do if your child is worrying about the SATS?
Do explain all this to her. Be quite clear that it is the school that is being tested, not her, and that the results she gets really do not matter! Encourage her to do her best, but don't be pushing her to practise or revise for them.
There are enough exams in life to get worked up about without also worrying about these. If reassurance is not enough, then it is time for a visit to the teacher. Explain your concerns to him and discuss how the SATS are being approached in the classroom.
Together you should be able to work out a way to support your child better. Finally, remember that if you have any concerns about how well your child is progressing in school, do talk to the teacher, or possibly the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (the SENCO) or head teacher.
Do not just sit at home worrying.
author of The Dreaded SATS is Dr Noel Swanson MD
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