First up, I just want to say that this isn’t a post about the ridiculousness of SATs and I’m certainly not planning on boring you with my thoughts on all that is wrong with the education system today. It is something that I have touched on here before and it’s certainly no secret that I think that they are a crock. But the fact is, whether I agree with the tests or not, they are still going to happen. And in fact have happened this week for my eleven year old.
I’ve had this post whirring around in my head for the whole of this week but I kept putting off writing it through fear of jinxing how well things were going. I know how silly that sounds but honestly I feel like I have had to keep a hundred plates spinning this week. This is the third time around for us so you’d think I’d have the whole ‘surviving SATs’ thing sussed but actually, if there is one thing that I have learned about having so many children it is that no two are quite the same. I worry about my eleven year old in a way that I never have to worry about her siblings. She is such a sensitive little thing. And I mean that in the truest sense of the word. People tend to use the word sensitive all too easily which can dilute its real meaning but maybe that should be a whole other post in itself? Anyway, I’m rambling. What I really wanted to talk about today is how we did survive this week.
We are really lucky in that the school my children go to is absolutely fantastic. I can’t praise the teaching staff there enough. There has been zero pressure unlike other horror stories you read about. For their homework a couple of weeks ago they were given a sheet of tasks to tick off that included things like read a good book, listen to music and go for a walk with your family. In other words – YOU ARE ELEVEN YEARS OLD, GO AND ENJOY YOUR WEEKEND! Then last Friday each of the children were given a letter from their class teacher telling them that they can only try their best and that there is no test to see how amazing they are. I know these letters do the rounds all of the time on social media so us grown-ups can become a little numb to the sentiment but let me tell you, it means the world to an eleven year old reading those words for the first time.
And yes, they do practice tests in the run up to SATs but actually, I think learning how to sit a test is an important skill in itself. We might not agree with testing our primary school children (and I include many teachers in that too not just parents!) but the fact is that it is happening whether we like it or not. The least we can do is prepare them as best we can. The children have brought home revision books in the last month or so since Easter but the emphasis has always been on little and often. No cramming sessions or force feeding of fronted adverbials here. And I am truly grateful for that.
A few months ago, my eleven year old used to crumble just at the thought of the word ‘test’ but this gentle preparation has helped her to mentally prepare. Just little things like being taught to see how many points a question is worth to give an idea of how complex an answer should be, not getting bogged down on harder questions but moving on to easier questions, showing workings out etc. All common sense really but these skills will see her through not only her SATs but the many more tests to come over the coming years. With help from the school and our gentle support at home, she was no longer scared of sitting a test and I can’t tell you what a huge deal that was for my little sensitive soul.
All we can ever ask of our children is that they try their hardest. And I say this to every one of them just about every day whatever they are doing! If you say it enough times, it has to sink in, right? And I know for a fact that my eleven year old has tried her hardest and then some this week. I couldn’t ask any more of her. I don’t give a hoot about what her results will say. I just hope she will be happy with whatever she gets knowing just how hard she has worked. We have made it very clear that these tests are not the be all and end all and actually, they are not even a true reflection of how clever she is (never mind how kind, creative, caring and downright amazing she is!)
Knowing her as I do, I’ve made a real effort to play the tests down at home. I’ve tried to be very matter of fact about the whole thing because that is how her little brain works best. There was no fuss or wishing her a big GOOD LUCK as the tests began on Monday. I just sent her off to school with the usual ‘have a good day – just remember you can’t try any harder than your best’ that I always do. I know that making a big deal about it all – even in a positive and supporting way – would have made my daughter feel pressured. Of course, I can say all of this with the benefit of hindsight because as it turns out, the whole playing it down thing has worked a treat. Thank the lord of all that is good and mighty. As parents, do we ever truly feel like we know what we are doing? I can honestly say that I feel like I have been winging it for the last nineteen years never mind this week!
Regardless of what I think about SATs and the wrongs of the tick box education system that our children are facing, I will only ever give my full support to the schools and teachers who are trying their very best in the hardest of circumstances. Over the years, I have seen goal posts moved time and time again and schools being put under immense and ever increasing pressure from the government. But all that truly mattered to me this week was my little girl. Thanks to an amazing school, our gentle support at home but most of all, her own hard work and resilience, she has sailed through this week. When all is said and done, I couldn’t be prouder of how my daughter has handled it all. She’s an absolute superstar.