Why not rely on teacher assessments instead of Sats?

05 Aug 2008

I received the following email from a Year 6 primary school teacher. I felt his views deserved a wider audience, although he asked me to withhold his name. 

 He makes a strong case for relying  on teacher assessments alone. My own feeling is that this could be combined with testing of a small national sample of pupils to give a national statistic. A small, randomised sample would ensure there was no point in schools teaching to the test and indulging in excessive  preparation but would still allow governments to monitor national trends. 

 This is what he wrote:

As a primary school teacher in the state system who teaches Year 6, I am compelled to write that the SATs system as it stands is unnecessary and a waste of a pupil's school life.
Although I do not spend every academic hour teaching to the tests, they remain at the back of my mind whenever I plan work.  Governors, parents and the headteacher are concerned about the effect that the results will have on the reputation of the school.  Consequently pressure is placed upon the teachers and pupils to achieve.  Furthermore, the possible attainment of the pupils affect the quality of education that they recieve.  Aspirant level 4 children are given the greatest boost, children who might make level 5 are also boosted and those who are not likely to succeed are - to some extent - discounted.  Similarly those who are able high achievers are not stretched.  Those who say that this shouldn't happen need to try to teach in this system.
The existing regimented testing system is just a snapshot of a pupil's ability on that day.  It is flawed.  I know the capabillities and attainement of every single one of the 31 children in my class.  I can demonstrate that knowledge and am prepared to be moderated externally if required.  I do not need the SATs to tell me where a child is.  I would like to teach each child to his or her maximum abillity, concentrating on enjoyment and attainment without the need to look over my shoulder each day.  I am sure that the children I teach would agree.  I could send a group of inspired learners to secondary school rather than a group of bored statistics. 

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