Keep calm, they’re only SATs!

Derry Richardson

We’ve done them before and we’ll do them again. That’s a certainty. Although this year there is so much uncertainty surrounding the SATs that I fear the children may begin to pick up on it, which is wholly inexcusable. We’ve all had the bad day when the entire class has begun to feast on your negative mood until ‘everyone’s staying in at break’. Which really isn’t what you wanted, but it’s too late and now there’ll be no tea and the birthday cake will all be gone by lunch, along with your sanity! So much has been said in the media, by educationalists and politicians, it really does depend on who you listen to, and who you believe, as to how the 2016 SATs will affect our children and staff. But the successful management of increased anxiety levels is crucial.

One thing I am sure of is the anxiety that any test, of skill, knowledge, or of our teaching, brings to the whole school community. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with testing, you’ll still feel the pressure: a parent desperately hoping deep down inside, or loudly and vehemently at the school gate, that their child will be a little bit better than that girl she’s friends with; the tutor who’s been working tirelessly with the boy who hasn’t really grasped his times tables because he’s too busy drumming out rifts by The Vamps to stay on task; the child who knows ‘they’re’ coming, but who doesn’t really know what ‘they’ are – but keeps being told about ‘them’, working towards ‘them’ and now living in fear of ‘them’; the newly qualified teacher, with less hours training on each core subject than she’s taught this year, who loves her first class and doesn’t quite yet know the impact of the SATs, although her older and wiser team leader keeps reminding her;  the TA whose work with year six has been a baptism of fire and thrills, although now he can’t quite remember himself if a subordinate clause is after a comma in all cases, and if that’s what he told ‘notequalateraltrianglesbecausetheyrenotthereyet’ group on Monday.

It’s a truth: tests, exams, SATs affect us all. The politicians, the parents, the teachers and the children alike.

So, what to do in case of anxiety. Don’t break the glass, or reach for one! STOP. LOOK. LISTEN.

Stop thinking about accountability, responsibility and the end game constantly. Stop and think about all the other people involved in each child’s educational journey to this point. Stop and realise this is not all on your watch.

Look around you at your child, your class, your school. Look at each individual and celebrate their successes. Look at what you and they have achieved together.

Listen to others who are there to provide support. Listen to the children learning. Listen to how they learn, what they say and who they will become.

As Nicky Morgan herself said: “… each child should be supported to reach their full potential regardless of where the final standard is set.”

Our job is to ensure that the school community is very clear about school expectations and ethos surrounding SATs. Our job is to ensure that that ethos is one whereby SATs are an opportunity for children to share what they’ve learnt, for us to find out how well we taught and that they are part of a bigger, fuller picture of success: scoring the final goal, being a playtime buddy, staying away on the residential, moving schools and settling in well, being the soloist in the choir, inventing the best jacket potato warmer in science, or writing a limerick that made the whole school laugh. These are equally important as a test score, a level in old money or even the teacher assessment. Take a moment to remind yourself of these attainments and the progress each child has made in themselves,  because you were part of that too. Not responsible, nor accountable, but certainly a part of the journey.

Stay calm, the journey’s not over yet! This is just a milestone.

Derry Richardson is the Professional Development Leader for Numicon. She is an outstanding classroom practitioner and Leading Mathematics Teacher, with experience teaching across the Primary and Early Years phases. Follow her on Twitter @PdDerry.