To SATs or not to SATs? That is the question

Standard Attainment Tests (SATs) are made up of a combination of testing and teacher assessment judgements. They’re carried out in primary schools in England at the end of Key Stages 1&2, when children are aged 7&11.

SATs are considered a compulsory examination for your child to take. But what is the stance if your child is visually impaired?

It seems the special accommodations that can be made for your child vary from school to school as much as the variance in your child’s needs.  Recently in the VICTA Parent Network Group, a discussion took place and lots of parents shared their opinions with the group.  We hope that combining these views into a blog will pose some food for thought.

The original question:

“Talk to me about year six SATs… My son’s school is asking if he wants to do them next year.  My initial reaction…. of course, he does. He is a dual learner. They are concerned about the reading element. I must admit I’m conflicted. Are they worth the effort? Could he be doing something more productive with his time? Are they good training for exams? What will he gain? What will he lose if he doesn’t do them? Is it all or nothing?
I suppose I’m after a cost benefit analysis, but my emotions keep getting in the way. Fred is SSI with no other disabilities in a mainstream school.”

The variety of resposes created some great debate! Here’s a collection of the pros and cons of SATs

Boy using a braille displayAnti SATs

“I said no to SATs, they mean very little for the child, it’s more for the school. As soon as they get to secondary, they do their own assessments. But it’s a personal choice, if your son wants to then they will need to adapt them. If they don’t want him to do it because it will bring their results down, then that’s another matter and it’s not fair.” – Jane

 

“Karen what good questions! You know obviously my situation with Scarlett is completely different to Fred’s, but I’m kind of anti SATs at that age as a rule. I think it is too much pressure for a child that age! On the other hand you did make a really valid point about the “training to sit exams” part… It really is a valid point and important… but I think I’d have to go with the let him sit out of them and do something which is more beneficial” – Charlotte

 

“I am also very anti SATs because they have no benefit for the child and are all about showing how the school teaches. I think a good long conversation with your child and then the school and QTVI would be a good idea. I’m quite impressed that the school is suggesting that he could withdraw.” – Kim

 

“I’m in the no SATs corner too. However, they are an indicator of how your child is doing compared to other similar aged children in the U.K. However it’s a snapshot about how your child performed at 11 which can be massively different to 16&18. My girls sat them in Braille with extra time and their support LSA who was just there to ensure there were no Braille errors or issues etc not there as readers or scribes. The results are meaningless as the girls were streamed according to different tests in high school. My sons’ school however use them to stream them in year seven. My friend withdrew her daughter from SATs, so it is possible. Our school spent the whole year practising them so to me the whole of Y6 was a waste of time. But for my child with SpLDs he did learn a lot in terms of developing his comprehension skills, SPaG etc but for the girls who were good at this already they found Y6 boring and test driven.

I wouldn’t really say it was practice needed for tests as my girls are tested all the time now. They are in year ten and have been throughout high school. The reason I didn’t withdraw any of mine, although I nearly did with my son, was they did all the hard work in the run up so they might as well do the test. They have no bearing on anything in life though and are purely as a government indicator on school’s performances and for bragging rights if a child or school does well. They ‘apparently’ give indicators on expected GCSE grades however if this is true the girls have already exceeded their expectations. But primary school didn’t ‘get’ the girls and see their potential, whereas their current school does.”- Sharon

 

“My son is in year 6. I’ve told the school I’m not happy for him to partake, as it’s way too much pressure for him to be put under. My son is total VI and only learns in braille. His test papers are the depth of a dictionary, so much information to take in and try to interpret. The school are happy to have him sit them out, as he is also suffering from anxiety and general pressure of schooling. I have however said that I would like him to still sit the exam but only during the same time that the other kids are sitting them and to not be too worried about the outcome. It’s more the experience of sitting exams and letting him feel he’s no different to the other kids. Initially if he was to sit them, he would get double the time, which would work out to be something like 3 hours per paper. That’s a long time for a year 6 child to stay focused without having his brain frazzled. Hope this helps “- Halima

 

“No SAT parent here. Waste of time and unnecessary pressure – they are reassessed again at senior school.”- Kristy

Pro SATs (sort of…)

Two girls using assistive technology

“He will get extra time, my daughter is a year away from SATs. I’m conflicted but she is fully up for it. She has MSI and has full time support in mainstream school who obviously are there during exams to scribe and read. Her school are currently practising at the end of each term and I think its good preparation as they do it throughout the school and none of the kids see it as test. I’m hoping it reduces the anxiety at the real thing”- Bev

 

“My son Ted is due to do his SATs in May; also agree I am not a fan of them either. I think the SATs are very much for the schools benefit but do also provide a benchmark for Secondary (they have certainly been used for my daughter). Like Fred, Ted has no other issues – just his visual impairment (completely blind). It’s a tough one – the reading is particularly hard simply due to the time constraints (extra time is standard with no differentiation for additional needs ie Braille!). But we have decided to go with it. I have said to the school if he does them, he needs support to do as well as he would without his visual impairment. Lots of practice without the pressure. We have an excellent school so I am confident they will do this. And more importantly he is happy to do them too, just like all his friends! Hope this helps”- Natalie

 

“We were told they are compulsory – will give you an idea of his levels if nothing else. My son had a reader and scribe – I think they might be the same thing? They read and wrote for him.”- Anne

 

“My son is in year 5 and will be doing them. He gets 100% extra time. He will be doing them in Braille with access to a reader/scribe if needed. I have supported this because I want to see how he manages the SATs and lead up to them so I can get a better idea ready to support him with tests and exams at secondary school. Also, it will give him an experience of exam conditions and helps with managing his expectations and anxiety around exams.”- Amy

 

“I’m going to add in a positive to SATs although I’m unsure if it is a positive as it could be either. It gave me an insight into where my child was academically as compared to other children across the country as their impairment wasn’t a factor. The girls, probably like other children, were withdrawn occasionally from lessons to cover VI related activities. Also during some parent evenings I found the teachers in awe of their ability to ‘cope’ that sometimes their academic levels weren’t mentioned. As their ‘learning journey’ was so widely different to their peers it was impossible to compare them to their friends. Their results gave me a level playing field as to where they were and if they were lacking where their gaps in their knowledge were.

At the end of the day, VI or no VI or even dyslexia, all our children are competing for the same GCSEs where the assessor isn’t going to care about their impairment so they are going to be compared to everyone else. The negative of this though is if your child doesn’t ‘pass’ how it affects them and you. Although school should use this information and put in the right academic support for them.”- Sharon

So with the SATs looming – what have you decided to do? And what, if any, special accommodations have been made?  We would love to hear from you and continue the discussion!

Join the conversation on the VICTA Parent Network Facebook Page.

Got questions about school and education in general? Check out our Education Resources.

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