Dear Damian Hinds…

Dear Mr Hinds,

This may come as a shock but in many regards we absolutely agree with you in your recent statement about SATs. Yes, ‘exams and tests have their place in education and they always will’. True! Professional teachers use assessment to support their students’ learning all the time… however, let’s be honest, these SAT assessments aren’t really used for learning are they? They are used to judge schools and measure your success in the DfE, children do not benefit from these tests at all.

It is also true SATs ‘are not A Levels or GCSEs with results that count on an individual basis in the long term.’ But you are absolutely wrong to say that that children will not be judged on them in later life.. because it’s absolutely clear that they DO affect children’s GCSE targets because of Progress 8, often causing massive stress and anxiety.

We agree that ‘“you don’t carry your SATs results with you into a job interview” and that “no one will ask how you got on in your SATs when applying for university.” Most definitely… but Ofsted will ask each and every school how the children are performing against these government standards… and so the government are making them seem pretty important to each and every child.

We totally agree again (have to admit, this is getting worrying… ) that ‘no child should be going into these tests feeling nervous or stressed about how they will perform’ and that ‘they should never be a cause for upset or anxiety for children or parents.’ We couldn’t agree more with that one! The fact is though, because of a system designed by the DfE, this is the reality of the SAT tests… you can try to pass the blame to schools all you like but YOU are the designer of this system… the blame lies with you.

However, you are fundamentally wrong Mr Hinds when you say that the SATs’ “core purpose is to help ensure primary schools are teaching our children the key skills and knowledge in maths and English that they will need to go on to succeed at secondary school’ and this is where we feel we will have to part company…

Now is it? Is that really their core purpose? Because secondary schools don’t seem to feel that they provide those key skills at all. In fact, numerous surveys of teachers seem to show that really teachers (and parents) think the government designed National Curriculum tests are not fit for purpose.

So, if the teaching of key skills isn’t their core purpose what is? Is it actually to use our children as data to judge schools, both primary and secondary, and to provide a means of comparing them, through your divisive and condemnatory league tables (which in recent weeks have suffered an awful lot of criticism..) in order to prove your worth as government ministers? These league tables are widely recognised as causing a huge amount of stress for teachers and heads, undeniably linked to a national shortage of teaching professionals!

Perhaps feeding your league tables are actually their core purpose?

If one in five schools are asking children to take home past papers; if schools feel the need to put on stress-busting sessions and plan special activities due to SATs and children are too busy revising to play, then actually, we have to agree with you again: ‘there are some misapprehensions about the purpose of the SATs’.

Because you know what, we’re not sure that schools would be sending home test papers and planning special sessions if they didn’t feel they had to. If they didn’t feel that their school’s future and their teachers’ jobs were at stake. If they didn’t feel that terrifying fear of facing Ofsted ‘without the data’!!!!

So perhaps when you say that children need to ‘do their best’, you need to clarify the outcomes just a bit. We think there might be a few mixed messages there… Just a thought.

All the best.

Let Kids Be Kids, on behalf of 30,000 parents who support our campaign to find a better way to measure school success,

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