Why I keep fighting against SATs…

So why have I spent three years of my life telling everyone that SATs need to go; that the education system needs to change; that it IS important? (Often to the point that I can see people looking for escape routes in the school yard..) Why do I feel it’s important that we do ‘rock the boat’?

I have to admit, at times I do get a bit worried, reading comments that tell me that we are ‘snowflake parents’ and that a good exam never hurt anyone! Maybe this is my agenda, not my child’s? To be fair, my child is not usually fazed by much and is very clear that SATs are really nothing to worry about. Perhaps I should just let him get on with it..?

Worries about the teachers and the head also raise their heads… What if my child’s absence from SATs means a dip in results; the dreaded OFSTED, academisation….  Would that all be my fault?

It’s not easy to continue to fighting a fight that constantly changes, that makes you doubt where you are going, that seems never-ending. But I don’t want to give up. Why..?

Because of the changes we have seen happen. And the more still to come.

Since starting this campaign we have heard from thousands of parents and teachers and heads who hate what they see happening around them every day, who know that there is better out there.  It began largely with the parents and the awful stories of children whose love of learning had been destroyed by the constant pressure of cramming for a meaningless exam. In some cases, whose children had been destroyed by that exam.

But then the stories came from the teachers too – also fighting, also feeling destroyed by a job that demanded so much from them and left them feeling defeated.

This isn’t a fight against schools or teachers, this is fight against a system that could be so much better than it is – for everyone involved. We are all on the same side – the side of the children. And that’s the key point: we are on the same side – or should be. Who does this education system exist for, if not our children? To help them to develop a lifelong love of learning and to teach them to aspire, to dream, to want to achieve.

But it doesn’t seem to me what education is about any more. Education seems to be about measuring and comparing, jumping through hoops and forcing small, not yet grown children through hoops that don’t fit them (and often never will) and when the teachers don’t do that well enough then the system punishes everyone – including them.

This isn’t a real education and it definitely isn’t the best we can achieve. It is a system built on fear.

I understand how hard it is to fight back, but if we don’t then nothing will change. I understand how hard it is to speak to a child’s head, fearful of upsetting the status quo and having to deal with potential repercussions, to stand up to a head as a teacher, or as a head stand up to the DfE.

But if we don’t, what have we got? And who is to blame?

We know we want better. We know there is better. The fact that there are so many of us fighting together shows that there is strength there to make a change. Things start small – but they don’t have to stay that way.

I want my child to love school and have an education that everyone involved feels is the best it can possibly be.  A REAL education that opens eyes; that doesn’t shut down minds.

I am NOT against assessment  – it is vital part of teaching and learning – but want teachers to be trusted to assess appropriately. To be trusted. To be allowed to do what they trained to do. To teach and inspire.  I want my child’s teacher to love what they do and in turn my child to love learning.

When I ask who do SATs benefit? And How? I can’t find an answer. And if there’s not a good answer to that, then it’s a question that needs asking again and again.

For SATs don’t seem to benefit the children; stress, lack of a rounded curriculum, being told they have ‘failed’ – not very positive outcomes. If they do well, the children then face often ridiculously high target grades in secondary schools which again often make them feel like failures.

SATs definitely don’t seem to benefit the teachers; stress, overwork, retention crisis and constant pressure to achieve grades that are out of reach in many cases. The demoralising feeling that you are not teaching the way you wanted to, that this is not the job you loved.

So who do SATs benefit?

Both primary and secondary suffer – in terms of pressure to achieve results in Year 6 at primary and then that same pressure transferred to secondary by SATs results achieved through cramming. The threat of OFSTED knocking at the door..

Everyone seems to be pitted against each other  – all the levels of education fighting separate battles and failing. It is a failing system and we have let it come to this. But we CAN change it. We have to change it. And we have to change it together. I understand that fear of being the only one – and the potentially devastating consequences. But surely none of us should be the ‘only one’ any more? So many parents think this system is wrong. So many teachers think it’s wrong. So many heads.

So this is a call to arms! We don’t have to be alone – if we do it together. That is the only way.

This is not a campaign against schools – I love my child’s school – not teachers – I know how hard they work and how tirelessly they slave to ensure that even within a broken system our children receive the best education possible. It is a campaign about a broken system and a campaign to change things. It is a campaign built on hope and on working together and a campaign about not giving in. I just hope it doesn’t last another three years…

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