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Education: The Dreaded Sats - A Child's And Parent's Nightmare!

Feb 14, 2008
It's that time of year again. Everyone across the UK seems to be stressed about it. The head teacher wants good scores for the national league tables. The teachers want to show how good they are. And the children - well, they have been told again and again how important these tests are, so they are desperate to do well, and terrified that they might do poorly.

Some children, of course, love tests and exams. But most would be quite happy to do without them, and some get so stressed by them that it can affect all areas of their lives - and their parents too! So, if you child is one of these, what can you do to help?

SATS (standardised achievement tests) were introduced as a way of assessing schools rather than children. The British government wanted to answer two questions: how well are the nation's children doing, and how well are individual schools doing? To do this, they test children at age 7 to get a baseline score. The children are then tested again at age 11. The difference between the two scores is how much the children have learnt through their four years in school and is referred to as the "value added". The aim is to raise the overall level of education among eleven year old, and SATS give the government a way of measuring this.

So how is this relevant to your child? It isn't! The SATS have almost no relevance to an individual child. The secondary school will not use the SATS scores in planning their teaching - they will do their own assessment of each child. Besides, the scores on the SATS, called levels, are so broad that they do not really tell you how well your child is doing. The average eleven year old is supposed to score at level 4. But if your child is at level 4 you still have no idea if your child is the high end or low end of average. If your child scores at a lower or higher level, that too is unlikely to be news to you. Even without the SATS you would almost certainly have known if your child is ahead or behind the rest of the class - and so should the teacher. So your child's individual SAT scores will not affect his or her education in any way.

How do you handle the situation if your child is stressed out about the SATS? First, explain that it's the school being tested, and not her. Tell her that her levels won't matter. Tell her to do the best she can, but don't force her to study or practice. She will have enough tests in her life and doesn't need to stress out about these.

If reassurance is not enough, then it is time for a visit to the teacher. Explain your concerns to him and discuss how the SATS are being approached in the classroom. Together you should be able to work out a way to support your child better.

Finally, remember that if you have any concerns about how well your child is progressing in school, do talk to the teacher, or possibly the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (the SENCO) or head teacher. Do not just sit at home worrying.
About the Author
Worried about your child's performance in school? Thinking about special educational needs? Get more of Dr. Noel Swanson's parenting tips and articles, and get a FREE gift, at his parenting advice website, and check out his parenting manual and free newsletter.
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