When is a SATS test not a SATS test?

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I’m a little confused about something. It’s to do with the SATS tests that schoolchildren are presently sitting across the land. My daughter happens to be one of them, sitting the Key Stage 1 (KS1) papers.

SATS, test, education, KS1, Key Stage 1
According to information issued to parents by the Standards and Testing Agency, most KS1-aged children won’t be told they are sitting SATS. Why, then, do the mock papers completed by most children have the word “TEST” splattered all over them?

My wife and I took the decision we would give Helen a couple of mock papers at home, just so she could have the experience. I found the relevant page on the Department for Education website, printed a few of them off and presented my daughter with them.

Believe it or not, she was genuinely excited and got straight on with completing the questions. She recognised one of the papers, telling me she had already done it at school. Helen was so enthusiastic, she did it a second time and bedtime had be delayed slightly because she wanted to complete more of the mock papers.

Sounds good so far, right? Only thing is, I noticed something very odd on each of the mock papers I printed off. Before I explain what I found, here’s a little background.

In many schools, the year two children are not being told they’re sitting tests. The SATS are simply being presented to them as another piece of school work. Yes, okay, many of them will sit regular spelling, maths and reading tests. They will, however, never have undertaken a test under such formal conditions.

Here is a quote from a booklet called Information for Parents; 2016 national curriculum tests at the end of key stages 1 and 2 (the booklet has been produced by the Standards and Testing Agency).

“The tests will be administered during May at a time determined by the school. They are not strictly timed tests. Most pupils will be unaware they are taking them as teachers will incorporate them into everyday classroom practice.”

Note the final sentence “…pupils will be unaware they are taking them as teachers will incorporate them into everyday classroom practice.” That being the case, why did I keep finding the word TEST sprinkled all over the mock paper in bold, capital letters?

SATS, tests, standards and testing agency,
Oh look, another example, leaving young children under no illusions they are sitting a test, despite what grown ups have told them.

We’ve hardly discussed SATS at home in front of our seven-year-old. Although we’ve no issue with the tests in principle, we didn’t want her to feel under pressure.

Luckily she doesn’t seem too bothered by the SATS tests. This is just as well. Having seen what’s written on the mock papers, she is now massively aware that she is sitting tests!

As I’ve said, as a family we have no issue with the tests in principle, but have had concerns about the way they’re administered. The accidental placing of papers online has done little to reassure us. Plastering the word TEST all over the mock papers is surely further evidence the system is poorly managed.

I haven’t seen a genuine paper. My suspicion, however, is that they will also have the word TEST spread all over them. If my suspicions are correct, I think this would be unhelpful and has the potential to impact negatively on some children.

What do you think? Is this an issue of genuine concern? Is this further evidence the SATS system needs an overhaul? Maybe you think I am getting worked up over nothing? I invite you to leave a comment below.

9 thoughts on “When is a SATS test not a SATS test?”

  1. You’ve raised an important point here, if it’s meant to be naturalised and not stressful that word should surely be omitted. Great your daughter hasn’t been worried, I have friends with children really affected with worry and anxiety around these ‘tests’ .

    1. The inclusion of the word “TEST” is inconsistent with what parents are being told and it’s sloppy. Since sitting that mock paper at school, my daughter is under no illusions whatsoever that she is sitting a test. It shouldn’t have taken much more than a straightforward proof-read to ensure that word didn’t appear anywhere on the paper.

  2. How silly! My daughter is in year 2 and as far as I know completely unaware of SATS. I don’t think she will be too bothered by the word TEST but other kids might and, really not consistent with the idea that kids shouldn’t really know they are doing them! Our school is being fab and keeping this all really light – saying they are doing some special secret work etc. but plastering the word TEST all over the tests is just not helpful!

  3. My little boy will be sitting his SATS Key Stage 1, in the next 2 weeks. His school has been very good and I have had many talks with his teacher about them. Although it has not been said directly, the impression that is given is that they do not approve of the pressure that is placed on the children today at such a young age. Even through it is all kept low key, so that the children to not get stressed over them, a majority of parents are finding that their children are stressed over sitting the SATS. I have download papers, example papers from school and we take a paper each and really turn it into a game between us. This really is to try and take the pressure off him. I find it very sad when in an assembly the children are asked why they go to school, response was – so they can pass exams. This was from a year 1 child.

    1. That is a horrible thing for a child to feel and say, especially in Year One. I have no problem with assessment, but it should be done properly and SATS, as they have been introduced, are not the way to go. Thank you for commenting and good luck to your son!

  4. David - David and Donetta

    It’s disgusting I think. At such a young age what’s actually happening is that the system is priming them for a childhood of testing. Bold black capitals TEST is the quickest way to pile on the pressure. Nothing says THIS IS IMPORTANT like bold black capitals does it. SATs aren’t even for children anyway, they’re for the system to test schools. The entire education system is in need of an entire overhaul, it’s broken from start to finish.

    1. When I wrote this blog post David, I ended up on the radio explaining my reasons for not liking these SATs. I wasn’t so much opposed to the school being tested, but giving six year olds test papers with TEST written over them…..such a stupid mistake. Entirely avoidable and shows a complete lack of joined-up thinking.

  5. I wholeheartedly disagree with the who SATs testing regime in both KS1 and KS2. Children are being primed at such a young age for a school lifetime of constant testing and increasing levels of pressure on them. Take our older girls secondary school. I can still recall the head teacher speaking to a hall full of parents at the open evening. These words stick with me “we are not an exam factory”. Clearly, he wanted to distinguish his school’s success from those that are “exam factories”. But that is exactly what it was. Not a week went by when our girls weren’t being tested. EVERY WEEK! That is insane!

    1. Yeah, I recall going to see one primary school and the head was very underwhelming. It was all about targets and we avoided that school like the plague. I don’t look forward to the teenaged years and later SATs. I know it’s going to get much, much worse. Roll on YR5 Sats next year.

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