SATs - Am I a fool not to care?

(40 Posts)
AnnIonicIsoTronic Sat 01-Dec-12 23:38:55

My current school

56% @ level 4 maths and English
5% @ level 5 maths and English

45% FSM; 60% ESL

DD and Ds are at various points in their respective careers there - apparently both on track to be part of the 5% & don't they know it!

Have I been naive to disregard the raw academic attainment in favour of woollier concepts? I wanted warm and positive for my little reception babies - but I want fuck-off solid skills and attainment for my secondary school entering pre-teens,

IndigoBelle Sun 02-Dec-12 06:55:04

They're on track to get level 5 in maths and English - and you wonder if you should be concerned?

Ahhhh, no. You don't need to be concerned.

mrz Sun 02-Dec-12 07:07:04

"As set out in the Secretary of State’s letter to Tim Oates, we are removing the current system of levels and level descriptors as recommended by the Expert Panel. Instead, the focus in the new draft curriculum Programmes of Study for English, mathematics and science is on describing content that makes clear both what should be taught and what pupils should know and be able to do as a result. We will not be replacing the system of levels, but will consult further on how attainment should be graded as part of the statutory assessment arrangements."

so depending where your children are in their school careers there may be no levels for anyone to worry about

AnnIonicIsoTronic Sun 02-Dec-12 07:35:03

It's not about level chasing - but they do reflect the fact that my kids are top of their class, but wouldn't be top of a class at another school.

I worry whether without pace setters in the class, and higher academic demands overall, it won't get the best out of my older DC.

Not sure if I'm expressing myself clearly.

Himalaya Sun 02-Dec-12 07:35:19

No I don't think you are a fool, or at least if you are I am with you.

I went for the warm, friendly, mixed option rather than thr pushy, sats oriented, middle class one for primary, and I don't think it was the wrong choice for my DCs.

But it does have implications for the transfer to secondary, particularly if you manage to get them into a high attaining school.

They will go from being top of the class and not really having to try too hard to being in the middle behind a cohort of kids from pushy primaries that did year 7 level maths, English and French in year 6.

Of course they will be able to catch up, but the shift comes at the same time as teenage attitude, hormones and the quest for self-determination kick in and they may decide they are not top set material ("not a kean-o" as my 13 year old DS says) just at the time when you want them to get serious. Particiularly in Maths and English my son has struggled because he wasn't as well drilled as some of the kids from other primaries, and it has been hard to get him to put the extra effort in.

Of course it also depends how naturally bookish and conscientious your kids are. If they are voracious readers they will probably make up the difference themselves.

AnnIonicIsoTronic Sun 02-Dec-12 07:49:15

In that case - should I reverse all my initial cynicism about SATs factories & transfer them somewhere where the whole Y6 will be basic skills revision?

IndigoBelle Sun 02-Dec-12 08:02:15


Dont move them. They're doing very well.

You don't even know how well they're doing because level 5 is such a broad description.

Yes they may end up in the 2nd set not the top set in secondary school. Who knows? That may or may not knock their confidence. You can't predict.

Your secondary school may not even stream. Not all do.

But in most secondary schools there's lots of movement between sets.

send them up to secondary school happy and confident. And keep them at a school you and them are happy with.

Himalaya Sun 02-Dec-12 08:11:25

No, don't move them. They will have plenty of time for being pushed through the exam factory at secondary.

Without getting overanxious about it you can get them to do some extra homework (Letts workbooks etc...) under the guise of SATs and secondary school preparation.

yellowsubmarine53 Sun 02-Dec-12 08:16:15

I think you're right to keep your children where they are, and also right to be aware of the potential difficulties in secondary school transfer.

My friend's dd won a music scholarship to the 'highest performing' (and most strikingly middle class) school in our borough. Her dd had been 'gifted and talented' in Maths at her outstanding (and fairly middle class - 20% FSM) primary. She was put in the 4th set out of 5 after the internal setting tests.

Her situation was affected by the fact that the very great majority of the other Y7s been tutored for some time. My friend is very firmly of the view that spending Y5 and Y6 practising SAT paper after SATS paper was only good for the school's stats - like the rest of Y6, her dd found the adjustment from being spoon fed SATS answers to thinking for herself very difficult.

maizieD Sun 02-Dec-12 11:09:48

Your children are clearly absolutely fine and would probably flourish anywhere they went.

I feel extremely sorry for the 44% of pupils who are below L4 in English; this school is failing to teach them to read adequately (EAL and FSM are absolutely no excuse) and very seriously limiting their life chances.

merrymonsters Sun 02-Dec-12 11:16:35

I agree with maizieD.

I wouldn't be happy with a school with those sorts of results.

teacherwith2kids Sun 02-Dec-12 11:19:29

You are actually asking a different - and more interesting - question from the one your title suggests!

The question you seem to me to really be asking is

'My children are high performers in a school which for completely valid reasons has a relatively low-performing cohort. It is a good school and I like it, but I worry whether
a) They will achieve their full academic potential [regardless of what level they get in SATs, as I think that we can all agree that SATs don't measure actual academic ability with any accuracy in many schools due to heavy coaching and spoon feeding]
b) They will find the transfer to secondary hard, because they will move from being 'the top few' to 'the middle many'

I think that you have to dig a long way below SATs results to find out what you need to know. Are your children being challenged e.g. by being given extension work in all lessons or by very clear differentiation of what they do in class? Do they have a peer group to work in (ie, is the 5% 1 child, as it would be in a 20 intake school, or 5 or so as it would be in a 90 intake) and do those children work together on a regular basis? Are they working hard, or are they obviously 'finding life easy'? Are there any social difficulties attendant on them being 'the top of the class'?

I moved DS from a school where he was the 1 child who made the 5%, because he wasn't being challenged, didn't have a peer group, was bored and demotivated because 'I'm not learning anything', and had become a selective mute because of the social difficulties his 'differentness' caused. However, if your answers to the 'digging deeper' questions are not as negative as mine were, then I don't think that the 'headline' results should worry you IYSWIM?

teacherwith2kids Sun 02-Dec-12 11:21:41


I agree with your point up to a point - BUT if many of the EAL chilren arrive in the middle of Year 6 with no English (as opposed to arriving as EAL in Reception and remaining with the school all through) then the school has had very little influence on their standard of English at the end of Year 6!

IndigoBelle Sun 02-Dec-12 12:37:47

Teacher - you know that only kids who have been in the school system for at least 2 years are counted in the results.

So the EAL kids must have arrived at the end of Y4 or before.....

Is 2 years long enough? (That's a genuine question - because I don't know )

teacherwith2kids Sun 02-Dec-12 13:29:38

Sorry Indigo , you are right of course (we don't go up to Year 6 so the intricacies of Year 6 reporting are lost on me).

It will depend, I should imagine, on the country of origin and the nature of the arrival of each of the children. A child refugee who arrives from a war zone with no previous exposure to English and no previous education is a different proposition to one who moves into the area who is from a community which speaks another language at home but in which English is an established and known second language

teacherwith2kids Sun 02-Dec-12 13:31:55

I just felt that a blanket 'EAL is no excuse' was perhaps not taking into account all the factors which might be in play in this particular school.

IndigoBelle Sun 02-Dec-12 13:36:47

I agree.

Sometimes it's reasonable to expect EAL kids to reach a L4, and sometimes it isn't.

But I would say most of the time it's reasonable to expect them to get a L4 and it is the exceptions, like you pointed out, who wouldn't.

The majority of EAL kids have been in this country all their life, and started school at 4 along with everyone else.....

yellowsubmarine53 Sun 02-Dec-12 17:01:45

It's true that the majority of EAL children have been in this country all their life and started school at 4, but certain areas and certain schools have EAL profiles which are very different to this.

54% L4 in a school with EAL children who have been bilingual since they could speak and in the education system since they were 4 is poor. I agree, MaisieD, that this children have probably been let down.

I don't think it's as simple a statement to make in schools with 50% churn in KS2, only 50% of the Y6s there since reception, about 20% of Y6 who enter in Y3 or Y3 with no English and never having been at school before...

maizieD Sun 02-Dec-12 17:46:29

I agree, yellowsub. I was a bit hasty...

Do many primary schools really have such a hugely transient population? (genuine question)

yellowsubmarine53 Sun 02-Dec-12 17:49:00

Several ones of the ones near us do...

mrz Sun 02-Dec-12 18:13:45

We often have children arrive in Y6 maizieD...a neighbouring school had 2 children arrive last week ...both complete non readers and I confess we felt relief.

teacherwith2kids Sun 02-Dec-12 18:42:20

I have had 5 new children join my class since September.

cumbrialass Sun 02-Dec-12 18:47:31

50% of my Year 6's have joined us since year 3, including 25% since the beginning of Year 5. Since my class is now full to overflowing, I'm hoping no more join, I had one Year 6 start at Easter last year as her previous school felt that "she would benefit from being in a smaller school" Not surprisingly she was a level 2.

IndigoBelle Sun 02-Dec-12 18:50:08

The junior school my kids go to (Y3 -6) have a third of the kids join the school after Y3. (and a third leave obviously)

The mobile population is in someways more of a problem than EAL, FSM, SEN or whatever because the class is constantly being disrupted with a new child.

IndigoBelle Sun 02-Dec-12 18:50:23

The junior school my kids go to (Y3 -6) have a third of the kids join the school after Y3. (and a third leave obviously)

The mobile population is in someways more of a problem than EAL, FSM, SEN or whatever because the class is constantly being disrupted with a new child.

Catsnotrats Sun 02-Dec-12 19:00:15

We have had roughly 50% of our year 6s since reception, although our turnover is slowing down as the school and the local area are Becoming more desirable.

Last year I had 6 new Year 6s during the year, 4 with no English (overall we excluded 10% of the cohort from sats results as they had been in the country less than two years).

I find that those who come in at Year 3 or 4 with no English are very hit and miss when it comes to getting a level 4. If they had a good standard of education in their home country, have parents who are interested in their schooling and able to support them (generally meaning they are literate, have a reasonable standard of education themselves and are not working every hour of the day trying to put food on the table) and have no SEN issues then yes they should get a level 4. However as you can imagine there are many who don't have all this and as a result often fail to get level 4s, but are still counted in our stats.

cumbrialass Sun 02-Dec-12 19:09:53

I would agree. I have three EAL children in my year 5 group, all of whom joined in Year 3 speaking no English and with little previous schooling. One is currently working at mid 4 levels, one at 3/4 boundary and one who is EAL and SEN at low level 2's. The well supported children do very well ( education is seen as a way of improving the lives of the second generation, we have parents with doctorates in agriculture working as pickers who don't want the same for their children) but many do not.

maizieD Sun 02-Dec-12 19:15:21

I am suitably chastened, ladiesblush

I would also surmise that the smaller the school, the fewer kids are needed to bring down the percentage figure.

mrz Sun 02-Dec-12 19:26:27

In the school my children attended each child is equal to 10% of the SAT score

AnnIonicIsoTronic Sun 02-Dec-12 19:33:06

We have about 10% annual churn.

T-2kids - you're spot on. What has really triggered this is my eldest getting a bit down in the dumps about maths being too easy ("I asked for a higher group, and the teacher said there was no higher group") . The feedback at parents evening was "XX needs to work well with all classmate - and try not to make it so obvious that he thinks they're his intellectual inferiors". When I probed my son about it, it turned out that his 'main rival' had left, and everything was feeling a bit flat.

I checked the school books, and the feedback was very bland - despite obvious spelling mistakes and crabby writing.

I feel I should speak with school - but it's a cringy PFB thing to do.

yellowsubmarine53 Sun 02-Dec-12 19:34:43

Yes, there are inherent problems with using percentages with small numbers.

Even in a two form entry school, 10% in the overall scores is just 6 children at the very most.

My friend is a governor at a single form entry school, and there every child is equivalent to 5% once children who entered the school in Y5 and Y6 are discounted.

Just a handful of children not reaching L4 makes a huge difference to their 'results'.

AnnIonicIsoTronic Sun 02-Dec-12 20:38:49

It may be relevant to mention that there are 6 other schools in the area. 2 faith schools achieving around the 80% marks. 4 non denominational schools achieving around the 60% mark. That is - our school is in line with its neighbours. I suspect to the leafy ears of MN 60% might sound worse than it is in its context.

yellowsubmarine53 Sun 02-Dec-12 20:43:44

I don't think it's PFB to speak to the school about their marking policy and practice. Nor your child complaining of being bored.

The feedback from parents' evening gives you and idea of what you might need to do socially, but what steps are the school taking educationally?

Catsnotrats Sun 02-Dec-12 20:48:10

Honestly it isn't great - we have a fairly similar make-up in our school and we get high 70s (and it is rising each year).

Gove has decided that 65% is the floor mark - any school below this faces being turned into an academy, and as it seems that it is a problem with many neighbouring schools, it will almost certainly be on the 'hitlist'.

Having said that, if you and and your child are happy with the school and you feel that they are achieving their potential, then there is absolutely no reason to move them. Having loyal and supportive parents is vital if a school is to improve.

teacherwith2kids Sun 02-Dec-12 20:56:31

I don't think that you would be unreasonable to ask the school how they are planning to challenge him.

Of course he needs to work on his social skills a little as well - but unless the school is doing its bit in giving him appropriately challenging work they are essentially just asking him to pretend not to be bright so that he's easier to teach....

I feel for the class teacher, who will have a whole host of difficulties to contend with but it is a teacher's job to make certain that every child makes the progress that they are capable of, and that includes the able child too... (and I say that as a teacher).

AnnIonicIsoTronic Mon 03-Dec-12 10:12:04

Have emailed.

"dear teacher, ds thinks you iz thick and dissing him cos he's well smart, innit. As his dad is well hard academic type, and he's watching you, so sort it out, yeah?"

Or words to that effect.

AnnIonicIsoTronic Wed 05-Dec-12 11:04:49

Really very good meeting with school (it reminds me why -SATs or not SATs - they've kept my confidence over the years).

Apparently teacher was just about to call me in for a meeting, because she was becoming concerned with the quality of DSs work dipping. She showed me examples of where he'd been sloppy & been sent away to rework & subsequent improvement. He's been talking a lot about how 'the work is so easy' - but not fully delivering - and crumbling somewhat when harder acitivities are provided.

Chatting to DS about this turned into a total `mea culpa' about how he'd not done his best work because he'd been upset about X Y Z ... he;s not been sleeping so well, and I think various things have come together in a tweeny knot of not-so-good.

There is clearly an element of coasting, and benchmarking against the weakest in the class - but I really can;t fault the school for being aware & pro-active about the problems, nor for their commitment to keep challenging DS to be the best he can be. The new school chat seems to much less attractive now that its obvious that the issues are as much rooted in a sensitive character as in any kind of superstar IQ.

We've agreed (including DS) on some extension acitivities from home (supported by me& DH) to boost motivation, and they're arranging for him to have 1:1 sessions with a trusted 'learning mentor' to regain his focus.

IndigoBelle Wed 05-Dec-12 11:30:53

Sounds like an excellent outcome.

Very pleased for you.

SavoirFaire Fri 07-Dec-12 17:08:16

great outcome and great sounding school.

lljkk Fri 07-Dec-12 19:55:13

I think it depends on your child.
DC2 & DC3 I think are best off being big fish in a small pond. So fine if they (okay, just DC2) are relatively very top of the class. They are happiest that way.

DC1 rises to a challenge; he is better off with a boot up his bottom. And surrounded by kids who seem cleverer than he is.

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