It’s a classic piece of Monty Python’s comedy; in The Life of Brian, John Cleese asked the gathered revolutionaries, “So what have the Romans ever done for us?” This list is pretty impressive.
If asking the same about the Key Stage 1 SATs I’m not sure we would come up with very much. Beyond a way of holding Infant Schools to account and establishing a baseline for Key Stage 1 to 2 progression I’m struggling. When you start pulling these statements apart the rationale soon crumbles. The Key Stage 1 SATs based on teacher assessment are next to useless for accountability purposes. Infant schools, unable to resist the irresistible, nudge the Key Stage 1 results to their highest possible level. They’ve understandably little concern about the progress to Key Stage 2; Ofsted plaudits follow for the Infant Schools and the Junior Schools smile through gritted teeth.
Maybe it’s time for some revolutionaries to step forward; a boycott of the Key Stage 1 SATs makes far more educational sense than boycotting Key Stage 2. The possible exception is a boycott of the teacher assessment of writing at the end of Key Stage 2. Teacher assessment is much more useful in supporting teaching and promoting learning; it’s useless for accountability purposes.
In their submission to the Education Select Committee, the Headteachers’ Roundtable suggested retaining Key Stage 1 SATs for Infant Schools and making them optional for Primary (infants and juniors) Schools. It’s a step in the right direction; a start of unpicking the mess.
Whilst I acknowledge the concerns of some that seven year olds, for whatever reason, can become unnecessarily anxious around the Key Stage 1 SATs it’s not my primary driver. My concern is the perverse impact it has on the Year 1 and Reception year curricula; an unhelpful forced entry into the academic curriculum without the prerequisite skills. Delaying the academic curriculum by a year, until the child is ready; they catch up, overtake and benefit from improved social outcomes in the short and long term.
It’s not unreasonable to hold primary schools to account for the effectiveness of the education they offer. The Key Stage 2 SATs provide an assessment with respect to the English & Mathematics curricula. Contextualising using national Key Stage 2 SATs data for various sub-groups/factors, applied at a school level, could replace the need for a baseline assessment. It’s not perfect but I’d suggest it’s an improvement on what we have now. An Infant School’s pupils would be tracked through to the end of Key Stage 2 and the accountability would be aggregated backwards. This may have more infant and junior schools wanting to work in much closer partnership; not a bad thing at all.
Comrades, it’s time for the Key Stage 1 SATs to go. Keep using phonics to help pupils to learn how to read but that’s another assessment that could go as well.