What do children really think of SATs?

Youngsters tell of their nerves and pressure from parents over SATs, as a new survey reveals their feelings.

Youngsters tell of their nerves and pressure from parents over SATs, as a new survey reveals their feelings.
A poll of primary school pupils and parents in England and Wales published today shows children’s strong preference for non-SATs testing.
Many of the 1000 schoolchildren who took part in the survey spoke of feeling ‘nervous’ about SATs and feeling under pressure from their parents not to do badly – but only 13% of parents felt the youngsters were ‘under pressure’.
The poll, carried out by researchers at Queen’s University, Belfast, and published by the Wellcome Trust, looked into testing of science for primary school pupils.
The report comes as the debate around statutory National Curriculum testing prepares to kick off again, with the Government expected to announce a review of the National Curriculum soon and how it is to be implemented.
This year SATs in science were no longer held in an exam format – instead, teachers gave an assessment mark for pupils. Maths and English SATs were held.
According to the findings, the majority of children found science assessment useful and liked to know how they were performing.
But most preferred the use of end-of-topic testing and investigations to assess their performance, rather then SATs testing.
Prof Derek Bell, head of education at the Wellcome Trust, said: ”What is striking about this report is not that younger children like science but that they value assessment and the importance of feedback in helping them with their learning.
”We need to respect these views and find ways to nurture their natural curiosity whilst helping them, and their parents, to understand how well they are performing. As we have seen from other reports, an undue focus on testing and grades too often kills off children’s enthusiasm for the subject.”
SATs have been shrouded in controversy since their inception and have been accused of driving a ‘teach to the test’ culture in schools to the detriment of youngsters’ enjoyment of the subject.
When asked how assessment could be improved in schools, the children suggested that more variety in the way they are tested, with a greater emphasis on investigative work, would put the fun back into the subject and help them to learn more.
Colette Murphy, from Queen’s University, Belfast, who led the research, said: ”The report couldn’t come at a better time. Adults may have the responsibility of making the decisions but it’s the children who live with the consequences.
”It’s vital that we give them the opportunity to express their views and listen to their responses, and to make sure their voices are taken into consideration by the policy makers who decide their future. By including the children’s perspectives, we can make better decisions regarding the way children are assessed.”
Parents of Welsh children, where the SATs were scrapped five years earlier, said the change from SATs to science assessment had been for the better – they felt youngsters were enjoying science and learning more without the statutory exams.
Prof Bell said: ”The Welsh findings back up teachers’ views highlighted in earlier reports, that they can teach more creatively and effectively without having to worry about the pressures of SATs and school performance in league tables.”

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