Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
Would you capture it or just let it slip?
Lose Yourself – Eminem
So tomorrow it is KS2 SATs time. The day we’ve all been waiting for. A celebration of the greatness of Y6 teachers up and down this fine land we call England.
But it isn’t about them at all. It’s not about the STA, the marking guide, the environment, the Draconian measures to safeguard the papers, the KS1 results, the weather or anything. It is simply about children.
Now I have only had the pleasure of teaching Y6 once, as a student. I was allowed to teach foundation subjects in the weeks leading up to SATs and then I had free reign with them afterwards until they finished school. So how am I fit to comment?
In my previous career I wrote exam papers for professional training in the Royal Air Force. The effort taken to write a paper is immense and it call all be undone if your candidate forgets to do a simple thing…
Read The (F**king) Question. Twice.
Sage advice? One of the things I often observe in my class when we do a test is people who dive straight in answering questions without pausing. They are then the ones who say they’ve checked everything and have done their best. Undoubtably they will be the ones who underline 2 answers when 3 are needed, draw 4 lines instead of 5 and drop marks in a maths paper for showing no workings and getting an answer wrong. This is the kind of exam prep that I have concentrated on this year. Real world, practical exam technique. In my class this has turned Below Expected into Expected and some Expected into Exceeding. Picking up marks by reading questions correctly and understanding them before attempting an answer makes so much sense. It is a practical skill that will last forever (never mind give evidence of reading at greater depth!) and if we practice it constantly then our children can be equipped to succeed.
I write RTQx2 on my whiteboard every time we do any kind of test in my class. It reminds the children of what to do; not to just plow on regardless.
Tip 2 is to remind children not to spend ages on questions they don’t understand. We all know to go for the easy marks but are we helping children to understand this. Again it is all about reading the question and thinking about whether to have a go or move on to the next one. We’ve all had the frustration in marking a test where we know a person could have got more marks later in the paper but spent 10 minutes agonising over a difficult (to them, it’s all relative) calculation.
Never forget though that this process is not about children at the moment. If you are applying pressure to your class, or having pressure applied to you by your SLT then stop and think. These SATs are exactly what they say they are. Standardised Attainment Test – a chance to measure children on a national scale. They have no context, don’t show progression and are used to measure the school, not the child. It’s also worth remembering that you could get an expected standard score in the maths paper last year with no Y6 curriculum work at all.
So here it is, the rub, the crux of my argument, especially when I see bonuses and the like being thrown in the direction of Y6 teachers. Education is a collaborative game, particularly in the primary years. We must work together in schools to provide the best we can for our children. We must not isolate Y6 and treat them like something more special than everyone else. What we must do is provide every child in our care with the education they deserve.
You see, that’s their fundamental right…