6 May 2011

What is Year 6 for?

Or more aptly who is Year 6 for? It's certainly not for the children who happen to be in that school year.

SATS (taking place at a primary school near you this week) the thorn in the flesh of teachers and pupils alike and as a parent of a Year 6 child, me too. From the SATS those horrible league tables are drawn up and published and for certain parents, those tables are all that matters when selecting a school for their children. The schools are judged on the results and the individual teachers are judged on those results. Heaven help the teacher who has more than one child with special educational needs and a needs assessment in their class. The pressure must be be unbelievable. So my ramblings are not a direct criticism of any teacher because I happen to think that the majority do an incredible job within the strait jacket that is the national curriculum and annual SATS. No, my ramblings are more against why we have allowed these tests to become the be all and end all of primary education.

It doesn't matter how you look at it the SATS results are artificial. By the end of Year 5 the child of average intelligence will have learned all they need to know in order to attain the level required in the tests they will sit in the following year. There is however a substantial minority of children who have not taken everything on board and need further coaching and there is a small minority that even with the best will in the world, will never ever attain the targets.

So what happens in Year 6? All children are subjected to a year long 'revision' campaign, going over what has been learned over and over again to the point of total boredom, distraction and switch off. There are only a finite number of ways you can teach the same thing again but in a slightly different manner. Then there are the practice papers ad nauseum. There is now a substantial back catalogue of previous years tests to 'practice' upon and all this does is teach a child how to pass this particular set of tests. And that is the crux, SATS results are manufactured, the children are taught how to get the right result. They actually learn nothing apart from a rigid criteria that is set for so called assessing their progress.

What a sham and what a pity. Instead of pursuing subjects and topics that would interest and engage and educate, the majority are not challenged to use their brains, which then get lazy and switch off. No wonder there is problem with some young people changing from reasonably interested in learning at Year 5 to monsters who do anything they can to disrupt and distract and not learn during Year 7.

The sooner all SATS are abolished along with league tables, the better. Maybe then we could concentrate on actually educating our youngsters instead of teaching them how to pass tests in a mind numbingly boring robotic way.

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