Standard Assessment Tests: Do SATs Really Benefit our Children?


Today we have a guest post from Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders. With her son facing his Year 6 SATs in May, she questions their purpose. Who are they really for, and do they really benefit the children? 

A couple of years ago a friend’s daughter was doing her SATs and wanted to do a practice grammar, punctuation and spelling test on my computer. She had a go and then I had a go. I can imagine you are predicting how I got on and you would be right – I did terribly! Some of the questions were very straightforward and I felt were absolutely justified in the test and appropriate to the age group. Then there were questions on such exotic and archaic parts of grammar that I just didn’t recognise. I know these things can be taught to this age group, indeed I just asked my son what an adverbial was and he gave a very convincing answer (that I am assuming was right!)

But what I wonder is, why, when there are such extraordinary and marvellous things in our world to learn about, should we be teaching them these dry and dusty things that they will never need and probably never use? When I have mentioned this argument before it has been suggested that they may use these things in later education. My answer to this is that if my child goes on to learn linguistics at university then they can maybe learn these things at that point. The vast majority of us will never need to know what a subordinate clause is – indeed I have never needed to and I am older than I would like to be, with a Master’s Degree in English to boot.

My son is in a small village school where all the juniors (Years 3 to 6) are in one class. I love the school and find the mix of ages works well for my children. The main downside to this has been that he saw the year above him preparing for SATs. Having extra emphasis put on learning subjects specifically for SATs and then having to do mock tests. Last summer, before he started back at school, he was very anxious about what Year 6 would hold. He was worried about the extra responsibility and the inevitable build up towards SATs. Everyone who knows him would tell you what a laid back, easy-going child he is, so for him to feel this kind of pressure is significant and cause for concern.

I know, having spoken to friends who are teachers that I am not the only one to feel this way. I can’t help but think we are forcing teachers down narrow paths where all they are judged on is how well the children do in their SATs. As a parent, what I want is a happy, considerate and well-rounded child. I want them to learn the basics, yes, but I also want them to learn all the fun and fabulous stuff too, not just the things that will provide good SATs results.

Do you have any comments, thoughts or opinions on SATs? We’d love to hear them. 

Tracey is the Contributing Editor for Tots100 and Trips100. She also blogs at PackThePJs. Tracey writes mainly about family travel; from days out to road trips with her pet dogs, to cruises and long-haul tropical destinations. Her family consists of her husband Huw, a science and technology writer, Millie-Mae (12), Toby (10) and Izzy and Jack the spaniels.

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