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SATS - am I missing something? If not, how do I get the school to educate my child rather than prepare for SATS for the next year please?

(44 Posts)
tourdewaterparcs Sun 30-Jun-13 19:27:07

So, I think that SATS are standardised tests set to assess schools (not children) and are generally agreed to have passed their sell-by date. In our area, the maths results will, apparently, be used to decide what set children go into in year 7.

Big deal.

So why the song and dance? Why, at my year 5's November parent-teacher consultation did we spend 9 of the 10 minutes being told levels (4c, 5a, 5b, etc) that mean bugger all to me? Why were the current year 6s "stressed" about the SATS according to their parents and so "exhausted" that they dropped out of their after-school activities.

Please - help me organise resistance. If I'd wanted a year being taught to the test, I'd have moved to a grammar school area where at least the results of the test matter to the child as well as the school......

mrz Sun 30-Jun-13 19:35:25

The school will have been preparing your child for the past 6 years and they are an assessment of what your child has learnt in that time ...
Why did they spend so much time talking levels ...perhaps because they've had lots of experience of parents wanting to know every single detail

tourdewaterparcs Sun 30-Jun-13 19:48:02

Fair enough Mrz but if the children are properly prepared surely they wouldn't be so stressed and wouldn't be dropping other things they do? I don't shed any tears if a child drops piano or cubs for a term,but I worry that it's symptomatic - that they will be dropping other ways of learning in-class in favour of monochrome exam prep.

As to the parent-teacher is possible that lots of parents are obsessed with these levels.... I thought our increasingly stiff body language would have been a clue otherwise but perhaps ten minutes are not enough ........

If we lived in an 11+ area I would understand it - but we don't.....

mrz Sun 30-Jun-13 19:54:37

I agree it says a lot about your child's school

tiggytape Sun 30-Jun-13 19:56:22

The SATS results do have some impact for the children too - it isn't purely for the primary school. They are often used to set children in Year 7 which isn't a big deal as long as it is a school that has free movement between sets - some don't but then not all schools rely solely on the SATS - some combine it with their own testing too.
They are also used to inform Year 9 targets which in turn feed into GCSE predictions. Which again isn't a big deal as a lot will change but since they will become the child's official starting figures for high school, an unrepresentative low result can mean less is expected of them in terms of progress. Rightly or wrongly, it is the level 5 and level 6 children 'expected' to do well later on and some parents feel that maybe the expectation of this helps ensure it?

I agree with you about the big song and dance surrounding the tests though. Each year some schools seem to ramp up the pressure more and more. A couple of years ago I’m sure there wasn’t the same amount of revision or the same long lead up to the tests. It seems to become a bigger drama year on year.

numbum Sun 30-Jun-13 20:08:14

Y6 SATs make me cross and my children are only in y3 and y1!

In our area the secondaries base the y7 sets on the Y6 SAT results. So, if your able child has a bad day on the day of the tests, or vice versa I suppose, then they're screwed for secondary school because the schools are full and they don't have room for movement between sets. I've seen it happen and it isn't pleasant. I don't see why they can't just base it all on teacher assessment. Less stress for everyone involved IMO but what do I know grin

Shootingstar79 Sun 30-Jun-13 20:14:22

Agree with Mrz - as a teacher I would feel awful if I thought my Y6s were feeling 'stressed' because of anything I had done. Sometimes the parents might say something that worries the children but I always tell mine that even if they do incredibly badly (they won't) , I talk to their Y7 teachers and explain the level they are working at in class etc. Children should be prepared for the SATs but certainly not overly concerned about them.

However, I do talk levels at parent/teacher meetings. It is expected and a good measure of progress. Parents know the expected level and understand if their child is making better progress than expected, or less and understandably want to know what is happening in those cases. Did you ask the teacher what they meant if you were unsure?

Shootingstar79 Sun 30-Jun-13 20:18:13

Numbum, that may be the case in your area and I am really surprised. We do a huge amount of transition work in our borough and Y6 and 7 teachers meet frequently.
I have never met a secondary teacher who places much faith in y6 SATs results because of the variety in schools the children come from. Some are 'hot housed', some aren't! most in our area tend to either do CATs in September or see how the children settle in and don't set until late y7 or early y8.

tourdewaterparcs Sun 30-Jun-13 20:29:07


Good god no, I did not spend the precious ten minutes asking to be taught the difference between a 4c and a 5a and a 5b and a 5c. I expected to talk about DS1's levels of curiosity, skills, whether he still has an enquiring mind, whether he makes as much effort as other children, whether he is kind to other children, whether he writes well, how he could write better, whether he is still good at maths and science, whether he has classmates who are an intellectual match for him - all of this backed with at least one anecdote about something interesting he did that would open our eyes to what he is like in school.

Various odd bits of paper have appeared at our house over the past 5 years with printed tables on them saying "I can use connectives appropriately" or something like that. As they told me nothing about my child, I recycled them.

morethanpotatoprints Sun 30-Jun-13 20:36:22


If you want to know about your ds1s education, you are either at the wrong school, or enrolled in the wrong sector.
Unfortunately schools are judged on the levels achieved through SATS and they are more important than your dcs education imo

morethanpotatoprints Sun 30-Jun-13 20:37:27

Sorry, I meant from the schools point of view, they are more important than the childs education. imo

Shootingstar79 Sun 30-Jun-13 20:46:50

Are you happy with your school? I wouldn't be happy with that for my child. The teachers talk about all those things as well as academic progress when we discuss my child and I discuss those areas with parents of children in my care- we do have longer than 10 minutes though!

Can see why you are worried about y6 in your case. Are there any suitable alternatives or are you otherwise very happy?

Please don't judge all schools by yours!

numbum Sun 30-Jun-13 20:54:05

shootingstar I wish that were the case here. I also know one school made a typo when passing results on. A level 6 result was entered as a level 3. The parents were disappointed to hear their child was in a low set but not confident enough to question it. There was no room to move him once the mistake had been realised and the poor child has had a very miserable year

tourdewaterparcs Sun 30-Jun-13 22:44:48

I understood you potatoprints ....

Yes, very happy otherwise, so I think I need to start a trend amongst the more confident parents.......DS is also a trendsetter so he'll help. We'll sort 'em.

At a previous meeting, the teacher had (unfortunately) made an error in some grammar work she'd prepared and DH pointed it out - politely, but point it out he did (I was a bit embarrassed). So I wonder whether this time round she felt a bit defensive and "levels" were like a safe place to retreat to...... I think she isn't the strongest academic on the staff so may tend to play it safe quite a bit.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Sun 30-Jun-13 22:48:20

You sound like a bit of a nightmare to be honest!
And potato prints, I disagree with your assessment.

wheresthebeach Sun 30-Jun-13 23:35:50

At our DDs school year 6 kids were in tears due to stress on the day . So much pressure and expectation from the school. It's not good for anyone.

morethanpotatoprints Sun 30-Jun-13 23:58:52


Of course you disagree as you are part of the system that promotes this behaviour. Teachers are under pressure to achieve targets, assess dc for nc levels, and administer SATS. Schools are not primarily about education.

It is a complete waste of time trying to change the system, I too disagreed with the way my dc were taught. When it came to dd after y3 I said no thank you, to state education and she won't be doing SATS, in fact she won't be formally assessed or monitored by anyone. Thats what I call a result grin

Hercule Mon 01-Jul-13 07:53:55

Teachers and schools in the state sector are obsessed with levels because Ofsted are obsessed with levels. Our school failed its last Ofsted and is currently in Special Measures and undergoing forced academisation because we weren't obsessed enough with levels.

If you don't agree with this by all means campaign for a more rounded and worthwhile educational experience but you'd be better off aiming this higher up the educational hierarchy with a view to changing governmental policy, as on a local level there is a limit to what your local school can do.

rabbitstew Mon 01-Jul-13 08:15:53

Obsessing with levels and exam preparation in year 6 to the exclusion of more enjoyable ways of learning (ie teaching to the test) is, imo, a sign that many children haven't made very good progress prior to year 6, so the school have loads of catching up to do to keep Ofsted off their backs and make it look like the children have all progressed well between years 2 and 6. In other words, the levels they have been reporting to parents each year either don't tally with the SATs test results they are likely to get unless they spend a whole year cramming what they are supposed to know and understand already, or their levels have been honestly reported to date and they just aren't good enough to satisfy Ofsted unless the children make miraculous progress in year 6. Either way, it doesn't reflect well on the school.

tourdewaterparcs Mon 01-Jul-13 10:05:39

thanks, those are all very helpful comments, (apart from the nightmare one but that's anonymous forums for you smile).

I think Hercule's point is very fair, but I imagine that teachers already protest at higher levels. I still think there is something we as parents can do at a local level. If the "customers" ask for nuanced feedback, there must be at least a higher chance that teachers will give it

We are "outstanding" - does that not give us some relief from OFSTED?

Also, is it not the case that OFSTED are abolishing the levels?

I am aware that in one small area of education (music education) the blaming of OFSTED is completely misguided. OFSTED have made it completely clear that "sub-levels" are completely inappropriate for music education (I can dig out a link if anyone's interested) but you hear of music teachers being forced to "sub-level" anyway.

So in that small area at least, attempts to blame OFSTED for insisting on sub-levels are at best ill-informed: a bit like people who reference "Data Protection" law or "Health and Safety" in a way that fits their agenda rather than having any real connection to the law.

PastSellByDate Mon 01-Jul-13 10:47:43

Hi tourdewaterparcs:

I think this SATs obsession/ stress thing really depends on the school.

I suspect schools which are secure in the knowledge their pupils are heading for 90% or better achieving NC Level 4 are much more relaxed about the whole process.

Our school, sadly is not in that position, and I suspect Y6 will be spent working with a large minority who are performing under NC Level 4 in a last ditch/ rearguard action to get those kids over the threshold.

DD1 has been saying since Y4 that Y6 will be boring - so it is widely known at our school that Y6 is about revision (revising books are issued to each child after Christmas) and lots of practice SATs to identify areas of weakness for poorer performing pupils and try to catch them up.

On one hand I am sad for DD1 that Y6 may not be very stimulating, as she's clearly going to be o.k. for SATs and we are attempting 11+ exam (more for educational benefits, then major confidence she'll succeed). However, I can understand that from the school's perspective and for the benefit of children who clearly are struggling in maths & with reading/ writing that the school's time, attention and effort does have to focus on this group of pupils, which can be as much as 50% of a class.

tourdewaterparcs Mon 01-Jul-13 11:08:02

I take your point pastsellbydate.

Thoughts though: developing good exam technique for a specific exam is something very different from learning to write better and read with more understanding. It's also very different from getting a more profound foundational knowledge of maths and science.

Do we risk doing the former because we don't have the confidence or quality to do the latter? I don't know.....

BabiesAreLikeBuses Mon 01-Jul-13 11:35:53

I agree with rabbit - if the past few years have been done there's no need to panic. We encourage them to do a sats revision book at home but it isn't compulsory and timetable totally normal til jan/feb. stressed kids don't perform so it's not in the school's best interests to put pressure on.
Our top half and bottom group won't notice it, the ones just below average will have booster groups but they come with snack bribery and anyway, writing is assessed by a portfolio over time...

rabbitstew Mon 01-Jul-13 11:48:03

touredewaterparcs - having an outstanding Ofsted only gives you respite from Ofsted for as long as your SATs results show the school is maintaining its standards in terms of attainment and progress. In other words, if your sole aim is to keep Ofsted away, you might as well be totally obsessed with SATs results and teaching to the test to the exclusion of most other things, because that's largely all they are assessing you on when deciding whether or not to visit you again, given your last glowing report... Outstanding or not, if your school's SATs results start dipping, Ofsted will pay them a visit. It won't pay them a visit because the school is teaching to the test, because it doesn't know that, it just knows that it once thought the school outstanding and the results it gets in SATs don't indicate things are now otherwise... hence not much to persuade the school to change its behaviour, unless lots of parents complain to Ofsted that they think the school's rubbish...

And yes, whilst they may be getting rid of SATs, they haven't yet, have they...

PastSellByDate Mon 01-Jul-13 11:56:48


I get what you're saying - and I don't disagree, but DDs are genuinely at a school where they have scolded DH & I for "doing too much" with our children. [as in you are in the wrong to be teaching Y4 pupils how to divide].

We've basically decided to do our own thing (informed by brother & S-I-L who teach in US) and friends at other (and better) schools in this LEA who actually get homework and copy it for us.

I think a good example is preparing a "persuasive" letter. Our school spent 2 weeks (infrequently setting aside time in small blocks) to write one brief formal letter to the HT about something. I know it happened, but the work was never sent home so I've no idea how DDs did with this task.

A friend's child at a locally Outstanding school was encouraged to write to someone she admired and ask them to come and speak at their school for optional homework. This DC wrote to the guy off deadly 60 who sweetly said he was off filming, but sent pencils, stickers, a quiz pack, etc... which the DC was absolutely thrilled with and some learning resources for the school. Apparently every child in the class had this as an optional homework and all of them did it with most receiving something (a pencil, a photo, etc...) from the person they wrote to and one author agreeing to come next year for a whole school assembly & some library reading time.

As I said to DH - if only we lived 500m the other side of X Road - what a difference a half-mile makes eh?

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