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Any evidence that intensive year 6 SATS preparation does any good?
32

Garon · 14/01/2015 16:02

DD's primary school has implemented all-day literacy and numeracy classes, apart from one afternoon of PE and another where they do PSHCE. As if this wasn't bad enough they're also sending home a load of homework of the same sort of tasks (most of which we're boycotting). I know it's the fault of league tables, not just the school, but I can't believe that this approach can actually be effective. It's easy to argue against from a child well-being point of view, but it would be much more effective if we could argue that it won't necessarily lead to better SATS results for the school. Any thoughts?

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Ridingthestorm · 14/01/2015 16:14

I think to that extent it can have a detrimental effect of student well-being. However are the lessons 'stand alone' or are they 'cross curricular' in which case other subjects are taught within the remits of 'literacy' and 'numeracy'?

OFSTED (schools have to jump through their hoops rather than do what they deem is necessary and important) require schools to provide evidence of extended writing across the curriculum, so it could be this that your child's school is doing.

As a parent and a teacher, I can see both sides of the problem. I would want my child to be taught a balanced curriculum with emphasis on encouraging him to become independent, love learning and to be curious about the world around him, but as a teacher, despite what the government preach act what OFSTED say they want to see, we have to perform and produce unrealistic expectations and results. Unfortunately we need to provide evidence that children learn in a 'linear direction' which basically means Al children need to show progress every half term 'no exceptions'. But we know that children do not physically grow in a 'strait line' and some may grow more one year than they do the next year. The shortest kid in YR may end up being the tallest in Y6 and vice versa. Sadly, policies dictate that academically, this isn't allowed.

Ultimately schools have no option but to 'teach to the test' and provide the government with the results they want because apparently a level 4 (increasingly levels 5 & 6) is all that matters.

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Ridingthestorm · 14/01/2015 16:20

Forgot to say, my school are taking all children expected to get level 5/6 at the end of KS2 (year six and year two are still tested and assessed according to levels at the end of the academic year, for the final time) into a separate room every morning until lunchtime to ensure they achieve the level the 'predictions' say they should.
Last year intense assessments in maths, reading and writing ing DID have a positive effect on results (up by over 15%) but the behaviour of the children was beginning to worsen during the springs and summer term due to increased stress.
Also a lot of high schools question results, despite them being externally marked, and feel children are not true level 4/5/6. Same applies when infant children move to juniors and gain level 2/3. The tests don't actuall PROVED that the children are performing at the level attained. Tests only test a narrow margin of the curriculum (key stage 2 over four years in ONE test) and also a child achieving level 3 does NOT mean they can't read as tabloids often report when results are published a the end of every year (December). It means they CAN read but not at am even the government want.

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reup · 14/01/2015 16:31

There is a real downside to intensive cramming. My son started secondary and just scraped a level 4 in writing. I saw liitle evidence of that level in his work but it made the schools data look good. At secondary all the level 3s go into a special literacy programme - they do less MFL and dont have to do some homework. Because of the primarys inflated grade he is not eligible for this. And suprise surprise he is getting 3Bs in his assessed writing.

It makes me so cross!

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MrsCakesPrecognition · 14/01/2015 16:47

Cramming for SATs makes me rage. It can't have any benefit to the children as the SATs themselves do not benefit the the children. It seems to be 100% about making the school look good. Children missing one day of proper education to do so etching with families is frowned upon, but whole year groups missing weeks of proper education is fine and dandy apparently.
My DCs school is asking y6 children to come into school at 8am twice a week to cram. I don't understand why any parent agrees to this (unless the are glad of the free childcare).

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MrsCakesPrecognition · 14/01/2015 16:49

"so etching" should read "something" but my tablet has other ideas, sorry.

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LoofahVanDross · 14/01/2015 16:50

Sounds bloody awful. I would be fuming. This is entirely about the school, not the child.

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Garon · 14/01/2015 17:14

Wow - come in at 8am? I won't tell them about that one!
Reup - thanks for your very good point, I hadn't thought of that added downside.
Ridingthestorm, I'm afraid it doesn't seem cross-curricular, and no extended writing as yet, seems very SATS-based. Ours has 3 sets in the afternoon, to include a 'level 6' group, and 2 sets in the morning. There's literacy and numeracy each morning and each afternoon - they actually sent us a timetable showing this.
The homework, on top of this, particularly gets me - none of the SLT have kids and I just feel it shows no understanding that children might have lives and interests outside school.
I understand why schools want to get the best marks, what I want to know is whether this approach does do that. I'm pretty confident there are downsides for mental health and behaviour, but perhaps it's the secondaries who are left to deal with that. But if I could argue that it wouldn't even help the school's SATS results, that could be a clincher!

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reup · 14/01/2015 18:03

They did before and after school booster groups at my son's school. (He wasn't offered any as I assume he wasn't near a grade boundary) . They even did 4 days in the Easter holidays. I don't know if the did that in previous years) but they got much worse results than the year before.

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MrsDmitriTippensKrushnic · 14/01/2015 18:22

I'm on my third Yr6 child and I still can't see the logic in cramming for SATs. Our school also has after school booster lessons and I've made my feelings about them very clear to both the Yr6 teachers and the school management. I get the impression the teachers would rather not be doing them, but the pressure is there to get good results. D isn't attending them (although if she actually wanted to I wouldn't stop her just on my principles, DS1 didn't go but DS2 did - both their own choices). We try not to discuss it now as the school's justifications for why they think it's so important for DD to get good results make no sense to me. I understand it'll be good for the school but they're hardly going to admit that's the primary objective.

  • it'll mean she's in a high set at secondary school - well no it wouldn't as the school she's going to has its own streaming exam as part of the entrance application, and if cramming pushes her into a higher set than her usual how is she suppose to cope when not cramming...

  • it's the most important test she'll take (said to DD not me!) - er, bollocks for so many reasons.

    The SATs were set up to check the teaching standards of a school - surely doing all this extra-curricular work negates that? Do these schools not trust their own teaching methods? How can anyone look at the League tables and think they mean anything at all?

    I can't wait for the summer and for DD to leave. Year 6 more and more seems like a total waste teaching time to me. Two terms spent revising and then a term of watching DVDs and waiting for the end of the year.
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Garon · 14/01/2015 18:27

depressed now Sad

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redskybynight · 14/01/2015 18:56

None of this at DS's school (thankfully). I am finding the way they are methodically revising all the stuff they are meant to be able to do useful though - it's definitely plugged a few gaps in DS's knowledge/ability.

(though the cynical part of me does think that as DS is currently Level 3 in writing he will get a lot of time and energy given to him that he might not otherwise have got if it wasn't for the school being very keen to get him to Level 4!)

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TeenAndTween · 14/01/2015 19:12

I think that level of cramming is crazy.

Schools should be steadily teaching throughout infants and juniors, not the level of cramming you describe in y6.

I think booster sessions are another matter. 5 years ago DD1 did maths booster, 1 hour a week for around a term. The extra time spent going over fundamentals filled gaps in the knowledge, increased her confidence, and ultimately gave her a good foundation for secondary.

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wheresthebeach · 14/01/2015 20:18

Our kids have been told that this term is all about SATS and hard work.
So no pressure then...

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admission · 14/01/2015 21:08

This is just wrong. Wrong in the sense that whilst it might achieve a short term boost of the level that children get, it actually will be totally counter-productive to the secondary school which gets all these kids who have been artificially pushed to a higher level than they really are.
It also says something about the school, because in effect they are admitting that lower down in the school, they are not teaching the kids very well. If all staff were good or better teachers then the kids should move forward positively year on year to achieve the grades they deserve, rather than be force fed in year 6.
That however should be obvious to Ofsted when they come in and quite a few schools that were deemed outstanding on the basis of their KS2 test results are now not because the inspection teams have seen that progress in the school is not consistent.

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Lazymummy2014 · 14/01/2015 21:25

They are also setting these kids up for a huge fall when they get up to secondary school. There's no effing way a year six (other than an exceptionally gifted, one comes through the school every few years type kid) is a level 6 in English. Just no way. It's hugely unfair on the kids, and the poor sod who gets to teach them in year seven, eight, nine and beyond!

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Thatssofunny · 14/01/2015 21:37

Reading these things always makes me feel as if I'm not doing something I should be doing. I teach Y6. We do two mornings of Maths and two mornings of English. On the other morning, we've got a bit of English, PHSE and a long music session. All my "booster" sessions are in the mornings, but aren't terribly different in terms of teaching. The only difference is that they are in set groups for these, instead of being in the rather flexible groups I had before Christmas. They are still mostly in the same room, unless the TA takes a group out. Afternoons are normal foundation subjects, including one afternoon doing Art/DT, one doing PE, one doing Science each week.
In Maths, we just go through different topics and revise certain bits, but I try to extend them to a higher level (which is basically what I've done since I got my class in Y5). In English, we mostly work on clearly structured paragraphs and texts and developing our writing. It's linked partly to the papers, but my main focus is to develop their extended writing and more extended reading responses in preparation for KS3.
We don't have any extra booster sessions before or after school. Hmm Not sure we've ever had those.

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Ridingthestorm · 14/01/2015 21:44

Yes it is wrong. Teachers know it is wrong and are 100% against it. But if we didn't achieve the unreasonable expectations the government want, schools fail and then PARENTS come in, all guns blazing, we loose kids to other schools and it is a spiral downhill to 'sink school' from there.

We are in a catch .22 situation. Either way, some group, OFSTED, government or parents, won't be happy with 'our' methods. We are damned if we do and damned if we don't.

The 'delights' of education being politicised for voting purposes and subjected to major changes and overhaul everytime a new government is voted in or a new education secretary is put in place. Unfortunately, labour, conservatives, lib demd, ukip, greens etc, etc are playing football with 'our' children's education.

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sunnyfrostyday · 14/01/2015 22:26

I love our school so much! Requires Improvement Ofsted in last year inspection, above average results, lots of fun. Same amount of homework in year 6, booster groups for some children, extension work for others, but still have time for history, french, geography, art, drama and sport.

We've just got to deal with ofsted again, but as a parent, it's fantastic.

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PastSellByDate · 15/01/2015 15:03

This also happened at our school. Worse yet the hived off those secure to get NC L4 or higher and left them with a substitute just doing English/ Maths/ PE & taking endless practice SATs tests for 3 months. Those struggling to achieve NC L4 were with the main class teacher.

They did achieve 100% NC L4 in English and 90 something in Maths - so on paper it definitely was worth it.

I tried to raise this with Nicky Morgan (the new Education Minister) but she refused to address whether the government should sanction against such over the top cramming.

Those in the >Nc L4 camp had a very boring year and no homework - so have found getting used to demanding classes & homework at the grammar school (for top ability group) quite a change and a bit of a struggle in some cases. Those at ordinary comps have also found homework has taken a bit of getting used to - but also just have attitude issues to having to work now.

Those who scraped the Level 4 - seem to be struggling now and that's resulting in them acting out/ showing off/ endlessly saying how 'boring' school is - because I think at core they're frustrated that work is so hard and other people seem to get it so easily.

My personal feeling is the system should be that exams are just taken in our stride (no special preparation - maybe a practice once a year in KS2 - as part of general assessments which helps prepare them for that style of test - but not weeks of practice tests). However, most important change would be for schools to be rewarded for tracking that a child is struggling and intervening swiftly to turn that around. So far - although there's a lot of verbage to parents about how they will help struggling pupils - I've never really seen it on the ground.

PSBD

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Garon · 15/01/2015 21:21

So the message here seems to be that the intensive SATS cramming is NOT good for the kids but it DOES get the SATS results Ofsted wants so therefore schools will do it unless they're enlightened enough to put pupils' wellbeing before SATS results, in which case they'll be shunned by parents who may feel they have little to judge a school by other than league tables and Ofsted reports. This is so depressing. I was hoping for some good arguments for it not being in the schools' interest to do it...

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pointythings · 15/01/2015 21:42

Cramming is bad. Teaching them the kind of exam technique they will need to give their best isn't, but that doesn't take an entire year of drilling.

DD2 did SATS last year and it was a very SATS focused year, but not nearly on a level such as you describe. Her reading extension group for example was not at all about practising L6 papers (thank goodness) but about reading challenging fiction and poetry and discussing it - with drinks and biscuits. DD enjoyed it very much. In writing the school brought in a specialist who did regular sessions, but it was far from being all about structure, spelling and grammar - everything was embedded in activities that were wide-ranging, useful and enjoyable.

Which probably explains why DD - who got a solid L5 - is now scoring 6 at secondary; she was supported to give of her best and not pushed to present a distorted picture of her abilities. I wish all schools did it this way.

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Smartiepants79 · 15/01/2015 21:48

Fairly sure it's utterly pointless and it makes me very angry.
We continue with our lessons as normal. Maybe the odd extra numeracy lesson and we run a few weeks of after school booster sessions but they are voluntary. Most of our kids attend them very willingly and quite enjoy the extra attention.
Children should not have to give up the rest of their education for this nonsense. What about science, history, art and computing?
Just reading this makes my blood boil.

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Smartiepants79 · 15/01/2015 21:49

Oh and our results are as good as anyone else's.

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AllMimsyWereTheBorogoves · 15/01/2015 21:51

Gosh, how depressing that so little has changed. My daughter is nearly 23. When she was in year 6 (12 years ago! How did that happen?) the class seemed to spend virtually all their time in the autumn, spring and early summer term being crammed for the KS2 SATs. They did next to no Art, Music, DT, IT, PE, History, Geography or RE.

Bad and bad enough - but once the SATs were out of the way they did almost no Maths, Science or English till the summer holidays! It seemed to be one long playtime after that, preparing for the end of year show or out in the playground messing about. God knows how they all got on when they started secondary school in September.

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pourmeanotherglass · 15/01/2015 21:53

Sounds a bit much, they'll be really bored of SATS revision by May.

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