Polly Curtis reported in Friday’s Guardian that 10,000 people have signed a petition to scrap SATs.
Independent and objective testing is an appropriate way of seeking to find out if pupils are successfully remembering and understanding what society wants them to be taught. Unfortunately there is little evidence that the Government's SATs papers actually do this and there is much evidence that pupils can be trained to give correct answers to questions on these papers despite them having limited literacy skills.
Just ask any local high school whether the English SAT scores achieved by their new pupil intake each year bears much resemblance to the independent academic work they can carry out in the classroom. Almost all schools will report numbers of pupils achieving the Level 4 standard expected by the end of Key Stage Two, but whose classroom performance is only at Level 2 or 3 (i.e., between 2 to 4 years lower than Level 4). One of the grounds on which many teachers, parents and pundits want to see SATs done away with is because they encourage teaching to the test. But who can blame teachers for doing this when these unreliable and poorly validated tests are used to construct league tables purporting to have some relevance to their school's academic standing in the community?
However, people have very short memories. The reason why the testing regime was put in place was because there were plenty of schools around in the seventies and eighties in which children were NOT getting a decent education in English, maths or science. I know because it happened to two of my own children. One of the reasons this occurred was because, whether you like the 11+ or not, teachers had a standard to teach to and when they were abolished in most counties of England that standard disappeared.
It is all very well for Michael Rosen to go around telling everyone how SATs should be abolished because they 'drive children, teachers and parents nuts', as was reported in the Guardian piece, but Michael Rosen's parents were both senior and committed academics, who, no doubt, ensured that Michael got an excellent education when he was a lad. Who is going to ensure that everyone's children get a sound enough education to ensure that they leave primary school capable of reading, spelling and performing basic arithmetic to a high enough standard to enable them to cope satisfactorily with their high school studies and their future adult lives?
I certainly do want to see these SATs abandoned - not because I think children and the education system shouldn't be scrutinised, but because they are bad tests being manipulated by government for political ends. What parents and society definitely need to know is that, by the end of the primary phase of education, their children are literate and numerate. If SATs are to be abandoned, they need to be replaced with more accurate and independently verifiable forms of assessment.