SATS chaos

You know all about the SATS controversy. Teacher frustration, parent demonstrations, child misery.

We’ve had plenty of contact from teachers and irate parents in particular. And the evidence – in this case the actual SATS questions, as sent in to us – suggest they’ve got plenty of reason to be upset.

Here’s one particular SATS question, which is pitched at 10-year-olds.

“Tick the option that shows how the underlined words are used in the sentence.

My baby brother was born in the hospital where my father works.

As a preposition phrase? 

As a relative clause?

As a main clause?

As a noun phrase?”

Or how about this one?

“Complete the sentence below so that it uses the subjunctive form.

If I ________ to have one wish, it would be for good health.”

Some suggest these are reasonable questions for such an age group, and that we should expect more from our children. They say the only way to raise standards is to push our children to their limit until they improve.

Far more suggest that the question is completely inappropriate for such an age group and will more likely demoralise the kids than encourage ‘development’. And we’ve heard many personal testimonies that back up such a suggestion.

We understand that educational tests are not supposed to be easy, that they are there to establish who is doing well and who needs help. But we also know that questions phrased like a large number of the recent SATS examples are beyond even the brightest children.

When former teachers are taking the test and failing it, and current teachers are finding it ‘virtually impossible’ to teach some of the answers, it’s hard to understand the point of SATS. Who is ultimately deciding on the nature and complexity of the questions, and to what end?

The tests must surely either be completely revised and rewritten or scrapped. There’s no harm in wanting to improve standards, but there are ways of doing that. If adults are struggling to successfully complete the tests – and it’d be interesting to see how well MPs did with them – we shouldn’t expect our kids to fare any better.

There is plenty to suggest that SATS are far more damaging than useful, and the Government is facing serious questions. Their answers, if they provide any, will be interesting.

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