The one where we won’t be boycotting the SATS

Another year, another blunder when it comes to our children’s education. I don’t know of a single parent or indeed teacher that agrees with the way that our children are being tested from such a young age. Of course, SATS aren’t anything new. They’ve certainly been around in one form or another since I have had children in school so that is what, fourteen or so years? And in those years, I have seen parents protest against them until they are red in the face and I have also seen countless blunders not so dissimilar to those that we are seeing this year. I’ve seen goal posts moved and schools being putting under immense pressure from the government. It’s a pretty depressing state of affairs really, isn’t it?

I’m sure some of you might have already heard about the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign if you have children of primary school age? I’ve seen the campaign gather a lot of support in the last week well at least within blogging circles. In all honesty, it doesn’t seem to be a talking point amongst my actual school friends but I guess the bloggers that I follow have the bigger voice when it comes to spreading the word about these things. There is a link there if you want to click through to read more for yourself but basically the campaign is stomping its feet about this years SATS and about children as young as 6 being tested. According to reports, thousands of parents are set to keep their primary school aged children off school next Tuesday in protest. Whilst I do understand their frustration at the situation, I’m just not sure that this boycott is the answer.

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First of all, the kids will still go on to sit the exams anyway. I think it’s quite naive to think that a one day boycott by a handful of parents will result in the government throwing their hands up in defeat and binning the whole curriculum as it stands. At best, they might listen to parents concerns but it still means that the children will be sitting the tests that you are protesting against or am I missing something?

Of course, taking your children out of school without permission also means that you could face a fine in line with the latest attendance policies. (Something that I don’t agree with but I think that might be a post for another day!) More than that though, schools are under huge pressure from the government to meet high attendance percentages. Although the boycott might be well intentioned, you could actually be giving your school a whole new headache when they have to present their attendance figures. The school are the ones that will ultimately face the consequences of that missed day and quite frankly, I think they have enough on their plates as it is.

The thought of testing children as young as six is utterly ridiculous. But actually my experience of SATS has not been the horror story that is sometimes being reported and I think that the headlines are quite honestly doing a disservice to good schools that are getting it right. Or at least getting it as right as they can in the most difficult of circumstances. The fact is that our children are being assessed and tested in one way or another from the minute they start formal education. This ‘week of SATS’ conjures up false images of little imps sat in silence in rows of desks taking exam after exam. And I’m sorry but in my experience of four children in two different schools, that has not been the case.

All of my children have sat a version of the tests in Year 2 and not one of them was ever even aware of the fact. The school kept the whole thing so low key that it felt like just another day/week in school. There’s absolutely no reason why this one week in May should feel any more stressful than any other week of the year. I’m sure we can’t be the only school to carry out the tests this way? Trust me, if there had even been a hint of pressure, I would have whisked my children out of school quicker than you could say home education. Besides which, as a parent if I had an inkling of concern, I would have spoken directly and immediately with our actual school. Not protested to the government.

I guess part of the argument is that the protest is not necessarily about your own concerns about your own child but against the bigger picture. And I sympathise with that I really do. I don’t for one minute agree with the constant testing of our children, I think it gets in the way of actually teaching them. And no I don’t think that the curriculum we have in place is giving our children the most rounded of educations. But I do think that there are some amazing teachers (and schools) out there who are doing the very best that they can for our children. There is so much wrong with the education system and the horrendous pressures being applied to schools by the government. In fact there is so much wrong that I don’t even know how you could begin to put it right. One thing is for sure and that is that the Year 2 SATS are just the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately I can see this as a parent of children much further down the line.

I can’t blame parents for wanting to support the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign. I understand that need to take a stand against something that they think is so wrong. And do you know what? I really hope that their voices can be heard. If they shout loud enough maybe something will have to be done? I’m just afraid that this boycott on Tuesday doesn’t feel like the answer. Not for me anyway. I am damned if I know what the answer is though. Sigh.

Have you heard about the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign? Will you be joining in with the boycott on Tuesday?Β 

Mostly Yummy Mummy Blog

40 thoughts on “The one where we won’t be boycotting the SATS

  1. tracykuhn says:

    Exactly this. It seems that the two groups who have least say in the matter, the pupils and class teachers, are the ones being punished. And what does it say to your child? Isn’t is making the SATs into an even bigger issue? How are the children supposed to feel about them if their parents think they’re that bad they have to take a day off work and keep them off school? Both of my girls went through SATs completely clueless, I found that the pressure came from other children, not the actual school and spoke to a parent recently who has had a private tutor for her daughter since Christmas to prepare her. The child is 11. Wait until they have a child studying for GCSEs, then they’ll see real pressure.
    I don’t agree with the way our children are constantly being tested on an ever-changing playing field, but this isn’t the answer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • helen symonds says:

      I think that firstly there’s a misunderstanding that these tests are the same as those taken in the past. I have two children, one in year 3 and another in year 2. The content of the tests this year is VERY different. For the first time pupils are being told to learn verbs, nouns, possessive apostophes and do more complex mathematical reasoning. Tests are in silence and schools are ‘prepping’ children to pass the tests because… their pay and the school ofsted rating is measured by the success of our children in these tests! Anecdotal evidence does suggest that children this year are finding the workload confusing and that it’s inappropriate for their developmental stage. What has been interesting for me is just how many teachers and headteachers have come our to support the strike day. That shows me that it’s worth a shot… however long that shot may be! I’ve explained to my children that I’ve listened to them and mums and dads all over the country are working hard to make sure that the government knows these tests a too tricky. Totally respect people’s right not to do it but wanted to make these points clear.

      Liked by 2 people

      • (Mostly) Yummy Mummy says:

        No misunderstanding here I can’t speak for other commenters but I myself am fully aware of the change in the tests. Although my children are older and not directly affected, it is still a story that I have followed carefully. I do understand how frustrating it must be and at the end of the day, the tests this year are even more of a nonsense than ever before. It is not the first time that there has been a blunder like this though. I don’t know if you recall the SATS in 2010 but there was a similar outcry and it actually resulted in some schools boycotting the tests altogether. Our school was one that took this stand meaning that my daughter did not take SATS in Year 6 and they had my full support. Like I said in my post I wish you well with this strike next week even if it doesn’t feel right for us. I hope your protests will be heard I really do.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Alice Langley (@ImAliceLangley) says:

    We actually have teachers training day on May 3rd anyway – but even if we didn’t I would be talking the girls to school. I think there are failings as you say, but Lottie’s school handle all testing very well, and I wouldn’t want to rock the boat for a school and teachers already under pressure.

    Ive also not heard one mention of the strike in our playground.

    Liked by 1 person

    • (Mostly) Yummy Mummy says:

      The last thing I would want to do is cause more stress for the school they have enough to deal with like you say! I know the intentions behind the campaign might be good but this just doesn’t feel like the right way to deal with it to me.

      Like

  3. Morgana says:

    I think I’m on the same page as you with this issue Sarah. My eldest didn’t bat an eyelid over it in year two probably due to the way their school (thankfully) handles it. If we’d had a different experience I’d be all for trying to do something about it, but I still don’t think I’d be joining in with the boycott. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • (Mostly) Yummy Mummy says:

      One of the reasons why I felt I had to write this to give a more ‘balanced’ view of the actual Year 2 SATS experience. Obviously I can only speak from our own experience though and like you say, maybe things would be very different if our school hadn’t handled them as well as they did?

      Like

  4. Alison Perry (@alisonperryblog) says:

    Great post as always Sarah! I’ve been mulling over the boycott and I’m still undecided about whether to do it or not. While I agree with you that this one thing isn’t going to make the government change the way they handle education, I don’t think that’s a reason not to do it. Each small act by a Suffragette in the early 20th century wouldn’t have got the government to change voting rights for women, but as a collective of actions, eventually, they did.
    Every teacher I know is against what the Tories are doing to education in this country – many of them are desperate. So I don’t see this boycott as being unsupportive of teachers and school – it’s the opposite. They’re doing SUCH an amazing job, but they’re under a crazy amount of pressure. They need our help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • (Mostly) Yummy Mummy says:

      I can see that the boycott is well intended but I’m just not sure that this is the right way to show support? But like I say, I don’t know what the answer is so how can I knock those wanting to make some kind of stand? The whole thing is such a mess!

      Like

  5. Jen Walshaw says:

    I am of the opinion that small drops can create a ripple. But my experience of year 2 SAT’s were the same as yours. However, Year 6 SAT’s seem to be a totally different kettle of fish, Maxi is only one of two children not attending any booster classes and the pressure on the children to achieve their potential (their words) is immense. I know children crying themselves to sleep at night and others not even sleeping. I have told him that there is no pressure from us at home and that SAT’s hold no weight for us. He is a strange child who is hugely competitive so loves exams and sees them as fun! I have made my issues clear with year six sats, it isn’t the testing so much as the shit they are teaching them to pass the test. SPAG is terrible. I told Maxi’s teacher and school I wouldn’t talk about it ion public until they were finished after a brief facebook rant about them. I am in despair at the education system at the moment

    Liked by 1 person

    • (Mostly) Yummy Mummy says:

      It’s so hard. I must admit that we are lucky in that our school are laid back about Year 6 SATS too. The kids know that they are taking them but there is absolutely no pressure. No booster classes or anything like that. And the irony is that despite that, the school always has exceptionally good results?! I do understand your despair at the education system though. Something has got to change.

      Like

  6. pennyalexander says:

    We spoke to our school about my plan to take the kids out and the teachers grateful eyes and smiles said it all, at last someone is standing up for this, other than us! Teachers have been fighting so long, they are exhausted, they are leaving in droves. It would be a real shame if parents gave up at the first hurdle 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  7. pennyalexander says:

    Also, I just read that lots of Heads will simply mark the day down as Educational (which it will be), which solves the attendance issue. And I agree, so much to change in the system and that’s sadly why I left, it caught up with me now I have my own kids in education though 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    • (Mostly) Yummy Mummy says:

      It’s so difficult and obviously you having been both a teacher and a parent, I can see how that might give you a completely different take on this whole campaign. I can’t stress enough just how much I support our teachers and school but I just don’t feel that keeping my children off school next week is necessarily the right way for me to show it. One thing that I have been thinking about actually is how the numbers of those taking part will actually be counted? Obviously each school will know if any parents are taking this action but how are those figures brought together and passed to the powers that be as it were?

      Like

  8. Rebecca Kempson says:

    I agree with you whole heartedly when it comes to the boycott. It’s really helpful to read about the experience of parents who’ve had children I’m the education system longer than myself. Having a child with SEN in year 2, I can see how the constant testing is having a negative impact on his behaviour. The school have handled it brilliantly though. The head teacher has sent a letter home to say she agrees with boycott and would mark any absent children as being “educated off site”. However I don’t want my 7 year old to be used as a pawn for a much bigger issue.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Vicky says:

        You sound confused, and a bit wishy-washy. You have written a blog which questions strongly, why others are taking this action, you admit you don’t know what the solution is, but you wish that something could be done, and agree that education currently has lots of problem. Would it not just be kinder to leave others, who have stronger convictions to fight this battle for you, well, if, not for you, then at least for their own children, ,,, because Frankly … you might doubt what success they will have, but you can’t deny that it’s finally brought the issue of our children’s health and wellbeing re.education to the forefront. This strike has brought excessive sats testing to the fore, and it’s now being debated mainstream.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Tamsin says:

    My C will be doing his – he’s in year 2 – I am concerned that there appears to be no provisions in the Yr 2 SATS for special needs. He has dyspraxia and writes his letters backwards, I’ve been told that he wouldn’t be marked as correct for any spellings where his letters aren’t formed correctly and he can’t have a scribe for the test. Luckily the SPAG test has been scrapped for this year, but I was pretty dismayed that he was going to have to sit a test he wasn’t ever going to do at all well in due to no fault of his own.

    They are a nonsense. But I work on Tuesdays anyway so not all parents could boycott school on that day even if they wanted to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • (Mostly) Yummy Mummy says:

      My youngest had special needs and ‘failed’ her SATS in Year 2 but she didn’t know anything about it. It certainly didn’t mean that the school wrote her off as a failure. She continued to get help for her special needs as normal in her class. I have to agree that they are all an absolute nonsense!

      Like

  10. Kate C (@kateab) says:

    OK, I am with you. I am of the not boycotting camp. Partly, because like you, our school did not heap pressure on my two at Y2 and knowing the teachers in that class (and having a hand in recruiting one of them) I’m pretty sure that will continue. It’s ill advised anyway because if you hot house them through KS1 SATs and you’re a primary school, you make a rod for your own back at KS2 as the idea is not just every child reaches the required level. If they are struggling, you should be able to show expected progress during KS2.

    A few years ago, there was a KS2 SATs boycott and originally, all the schools in the area said they were boycotting. Some then dropped out, ours didn’t. School did their own assessments but the results were not published. What happened? Ofsted came in the following October and they were caned for not having results, leading to a rating which I believe did not reflect the school’s actual position. They would not be keen on boycotts because Ofsted are due in from next term again.

    Yes, the Government needs to stop piling pressure on the schools. I mean, they’re at the moment all going to be academised anyway so there is little point in trying to achieve 100% meeting the required levels. That is unrealistic anyway, because many children with special needs just won’t reach that level. However, I also think that schools themselves have a part to play in this. I don’t believe there is much need for all the pressure they are putting on children. At our school, the most they do in extra lessons is a maths club for 1 hour on Thursdays after school. It’s entirely optional as far as I know but it just gives the teacher a bit of time with those who are struggling a bit with maths. Their teacher is amazing, he’s had them since Year 5 and has really brought them on after a difficult couple of years. He’s done it without piling on heaps of pressure and it’s only now they are doing lots of tests. (Even then, they are not doing them all day long.).

    I have friends whose children have been pressurised so badly, they are in tears a lot of the time. The futility of it all is that one of the primaries involved often has so few children taking SATs that their results are not published so only they and Ofsted really know them!

    Thankfully, my boy is not feeling pressured. I am glad about that. I worry about next year when Missy has to do them tho. She’s less confident all around.

    A friend of mine told me that a local primary school is getting in some Y2 children for extra lessons at 8am! I know what I would say if I was asked to do that, and it would not be polite. It’s also madness for the reason I’ve described.

    One of the reasons schools rely so much on SATs is to attract “the right sort of parent/pupils”. This makes my blood boil! Yes, it may be easier to teach a child from a middle class background whose parents support them well but education is for everyone and we don’t do things because they are easy but because they are hard. Schools should be able to quote SATs results in the light of number of children with special needs – although the expected progress data should give an idea of how well they did with all pupils but weirdly, not many people seem to pay a lot of attention. If we are assuming kids are a range of abilities, I would far rather see kids making expected progress than meeting the same standard across the board.

    I also think that Ofsted should be asking schools how much extra tuition they are giving to achieve the published results. If they can’t do it in normal time, there is something wrong and not with the pupils. That may encourage schools to sit back a bit and accept a dip – which looks like is going to happen this year as these kids have only been working on the new curriculum for two years – and work more on progress of all kids, not a pass mark in an exam.

    Sorry, a big essay. I don’t like these SATs at all, but I feel it unhelpful to withdraw kids. As a governor, I support the teachers in my kids’ school in different ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. aliwilford says:

    Great post Sarah. We don’t have testing as young as six (yet) in NZ but the classroom trend is heading that way – to the chagrin of teachers as much as parents. Too much rigorous structure in the classroom leaves creativity out in the cold. Have you seen Ken Robinson’s TED talk on the education system? It’s compelling . Good luck! Ali x

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Our Little Organic Life says:

    To be honest, I’ve not known what to make of this boycott yet. My daughter is still so young (14 months) and we’ll probably send her to Steiner school where I don’t think this kind of thing happens. I do have some friends with children who actually support the boycott…but can’t do anything about it because they’re teachers and have to go to work! πŸ™‚ Great post and lots to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. mumaontheedge says:

    Great post- love hearing the other side of the fence as it were.
    I have a daughter in reception at the moment so while this doesn’t effect us yet I do feel that sometimes the only way to be noticed and be heard is to vote with your feet, so I can fully understand why the campaign has decided to show its protest to these tests in this way. I certainly wouldn’t be sending my daughter to school if she was finding the SATs stressful, or if I felt the subject matter was way beyond her. The Muma bear in me would hug her tight and keep her safe!!!
    It sounds like the school your children attend have managed to get it just right- tests without feeling tested.
    Congrats on getting another perspective out there on this. Media is flooded with the likes of my views- and that’s a bit boring! Xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • (Mostly) Yummy Mummy says:

      Thank you! It just felt important to me to share my own experience. Yes the tests and goal posts have been changed this year but the pressure being piled on to schools by government isn’t always being passed on to our children. Not that I agree with the changes of course I just don’t think that this strike is the answer. Tricky one for sure!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Yaeya says:

    Spot on!!!! I also don’t get it what boycotting one day will achieve.
    My child’s school is doing assesments over number of days and kids wouldn’t notice it.
    In my observation (not making statements or pointing fingers) children who are not doing well, it’s their parents who are protesting.
    One family just pulled out their kids for “home schooling” for this term only, to make a political statement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • (Mostly) Yummy Mummy says:

      At that age I think my own children would have been very unsettled if I pulled them out of school for a whole month (for starters they have always LOVED school!) Each to their own of course but I’m not sure if I would ultimately feel okay with disrupting my children’s lives like that to make my own political statement?

      Like

  15. Elizabeth Grey says:

    I am striking on Tuesday. You have completely MISSED the point. Firstly it isn’t a SATS boycott. The date was deliberately chosen as it was NOT a SATS testing day. It is a protest, not a boycott, so the entire premise of your blog is incorrect. I don’t know how you missed that?

    I am a lone striker in my school. I find few parents are truly aware of the issues and as one commentator to your blog so offensively puts it – you do need a child who doesn’t fit the box or tick the boxes to bring this to light.

    I am not (yet) striking over stress levels because this has not affected my children. My eldest did KS1 SATS last year. However, I am open minded enough and I have also read enough to know that SATS have increased in difficulty so much in just one year. I also know that my eldest is a laidback child and his not being affected doesn’t take away from those children who are deeply affected.

    I am striking because I resent the changes made to the curriculum. I resent the narrowing of the curriculum to the point teachers teach only that which is testable. Children who are more able to learn rote sail through tests, but do they have the understanding if their rote taught and only their knowledge is quizzed. I resent the time taken to teach grammatical terms (too young) at the expense of creativity and the time taken to teach times tables (too young) at the expense of problem solving.

    My eldest child is an all-rounder. My middle child learns actively and physically. He struggles with the ticky-box exercises. My youngest ticks all the boxes and is well ahead of her peers. All three of my children are not getting the education their deserve. Their teachers know this, but their hands are tied.

    So what’s the point? The point is if you don’t stand up for what you believe in then you’ll fall for anything. Teachers, Unions, Headmasters, Experts have all raised their voices against these tests and the government has ignored them because they wish to use children as data. They are evaluating their schools, not children. It is not to our children’s benefit. Michael Gove created the new tests and curriculum. Three professionals were employed in the field of Maths, English and Science to help. All three resigned in protest at what the government planned to do. The government refused to listen. The government says “parents want to see how their children progress. They are in favour of this.” We are not! PARENTS NOW HAVE A VOICE. This is the first time parents have come together to help teachers fight for our education system.

    Be a voice, not an echo!

    Like

    • (Mostly) Yummy Mummy says:

      It’s obviously something that you feel very strongly about and I’m certainly not going to knock you for that but please don’t presume that I’ve missed the point just because I don’t agree with you. To boycott is to withdraw in protest no? Boycott, strike, whatever you want to call it I just don’t feel that this is the right way for me to show my support.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Elizabeth Grey says:

        The protest is to show teachers, headmasters and teaching unions that they would have parental backing in a vote to boycott SATS examinations. The government has ignored education experts and teachers because they have convinced themselves they need data more than they need to give children the type of education experts agree is best. All three government advisors brought in to create the new SATS tests for the government resigned at what Michael Gove planned to do, against the entire sector’s advice.

        The government continues to ignore education professionals, stating that “parents are happy with rigourous testing” in their response. This is our chance to demolish that response and simultaneously show education experts/teachers/unions that we are behind them.

        I apologise if I was confused by your wording. The use of the word “boycott” to me meant we were withdrawing from the SATS, when the day was chosen as the least disruptive possible.

        Like

      • (Mostly) Yummy Mummy says:

        But schools have boycotted SATS in the past without having to show parental support through striking? Our school boycotted the tests back in 2010 when my daughter was in Year 6 meaning that she didn’t sit the exams and they had parents full support in doing so. There are other ways to show support is what I guess I’m trying to say.

        Like

  16. Vicky says:

    Elizabeth grey! Well done!
    thank you. It’s a bit like saying, “well, surely, if she throws herself in front of a horse, she’ll only be kiiling herself” If somebody believes in something so strongly, they feel they need to protest, then who are the non-protesters to dismiss the protest, … even if they don’t agree with the sentiment?.

    Like

    • (Mostly) Yummy Mummy says:

      So basically you’re saying I’m confused because I don’t agree with you? And if I don’t agree with you then I don’t have the right to express my opinion? Just as I have the right to express my thoughts here on my own blog, you have the right to think that I’m wishy washy in doing so. The strike on Tuesday doesn’t feel like the right way for me to support our teachers that’s all I’m saying. I might not have all the answers but I’m still quite within my rights to disagree with you? Of course debate can only be a good thing and it’s great that we’re talking about these issues even if we can’t all agree on what best action to take.

      Like

      • Elizabeth Grey says:

        All I would say is read, read, read and read again.

        There is a mountain of literature, opinion, research out there about the nature of the new regime of SATS. I’m not saying this applies to you, but I’ve been fighting a sea of apathy in the schoolyard and unfortunately I have found this corresponds to a woeful lack of information.

        Again – striking isn’t right for everybody. I have informed friends who agree with me 100% (as you seem to do about SATS) who aren’t striking because it doesn’t feel right for them and that’s fine.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. sophieblovett says:

    Two things: firstly, the KS1 and KS2 SATs are completely different this year than they have been previously, and are causing huge amounts of stress to children and teachers alike. It’s great that your kids didn’t get stressed out by their, very different, exam experience, but it is a little insincere for you to be claiming to offer ‘your perspective’ when you do not actually currently have a child going through this, and therefore have no experience to support the claims you are making. Secondly, as a teacher, I can assure you that not a single teacher I know has expressed concern about the action parents are taking next Tuesday – in fact quite the opposite. Teachers need the support of parents in order to challenge government directives, otherwise they are simply accused of not representing their stakeholders’ interests. Of course it is entirely up to you whether you choose to take action, but I find it incredibly frustrating that you are claiming to offer a ‘balanced’ view, when in fact your opinions are underpinned by misinformation and precisely the sort of scaremongering that would stop anyone ever doing anything to stand up for their beliefs! If you are genuinely interested in the reasons why this strike is important I’ve written about it here: https://sophieis.com/2016/04/29/together-we-are-stronger/

    Like

    • (Mostly) Yummy Mummy says:

      I might not have children in Year 2 this time around but that does not mean that I am incapable of reading the facts for myself. I don’t disagree for one minute that the changes made are wrong. In fact, I don’t even know how it is allowed to make these changes without full and proper consultation. Like I say, there is a lot wrong with the whole education system as it stands and this is just the tip of the iceberg. I think it’s unfair to accuse me of scaremongering just because I don’t agree with you. That’s not the case at all. I’ve shared my experience of SATS and explained that although I share parents frustration at the situation, striking on Tuesday just doesn’t feel like the right action to take. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t strike just that I don’t intend to!

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