This is something I have told people over the years but I need to write it down, as I still don’t believe it. It never loses relevance.
I was lucky enough to spend the last fourteen years of my working life in a small, private girls’ school. The first two years were as a Year 2 class teacher, during which I was responsible for teaching to the end of Key Stage 2 SATs. The whole testing, marking and reporting back to parents merry-go-round was an annual ritual that no-one enjoyed. These girls were six and seven years old but it was the way it was done.
The first year was difficult, as I had a huge range of abilities; there were, effectively, eighteen children and five ability groups. The girls at the top were very bight and easy to teach whilst the ones at the other end were a real challenge.
The second year was equally taxing. By the time we were a few weeks away from the tests, it became glaringly obvious just how stressed these children were. I discussed it with my head teacher – a down-to-earth woman with very strong opinions – and she agreed to come and talk to the class, to try and calm them down a bit. She did a sterling job and was just about to leave when she casually asked them to put up their hand if they had a tutor. Two-thirds of the class raised their hands. We looked at each other and said nothing. At the next break, I went to her office and she was genuinely shocked. She told me she had no idea of the prevailing situation and was going to stop doing the Key Stage 1 SATs immediately. We would still use them as a baseline assessment for moving into Key Stage 2 but it would be unofficial and there would be no detailed reporting back to parents. Any comments would just form part of the end of year report. The school governors at the time agreed.
It was a bold step. As we were an Independent School, it was possible but the ludicrous situation of force-feeding children linguistic and mathematical information that they will probably never need – and certainly don’t need to know at seven or eleven years old – is barbaric. I am actually ashamed to have helped perpetuate this system for so long but it was my job and that was the price.
I once read that a famous author’s work was analysed and didn’t even make a Level 5. What need does an eleven-year-old have to do so?