This week my eldest will complete the end of key stage one tests otherwise known as the Year 2 SATS. Over recent weeks and months I have seen loads of blog posts from mothers worried about the stress placed on their children; some as young as 6 years old and some poor children seemingly so stressed that they are having panic attacks! A quick google search will show many mumsnet and netmums (to name, but a couple) threads with mothers discussing the Year 2 SATS and fretting over the pressure that their children are under or how best to prepare the kids for the tests. So I wonder is there too much pressure on our children?
I have to say there is stress about these tests in our household too. The stress is mine…. I am worried that our usual lateness will result in him missing the start of a test and more so I worry that as soon as these tests are over half term starts and I haven’t booked the holiday club they want to go to – ahhhhhh!! There is so much stress and pressure, but fortunately there is basically none resting on his little shoulders.
Until last week my son hadn’t even heard of SATS. In fact this morning we were talking about what was coming up this week as we often do at the start of the week and I mentioned that he would be doing the tests. To which he replied ‘what tests?’ I then reminded him that these were the ones where he got to show everyone how easy maths was (he is fairly convinced he is Einstein – he isn’t, but is doing very well and self belief is surely half the battle isn’t it?). He simply shrugged, said ‘oh yeah’ and carried on eating his cereal. So you see there is no SATs stress here, but why not? It isn’t like we are a calm and very relaxed family – far from it. My little boy does worry about things and heaven knows I worry about everything.
From what I have been reading it seems that whether there is stress and pressure or not depends on the school and I guess the individual teacher. My son’s school is rated outstanding and is the loveliest little primary school. We feel very lucky to have them attending somewhere that is both nurturing for their personal growth and focused on academic achievement. I had partly expected them to be quite hot on prepping the children for the SATS, but no it has hardly been mentioned. I have noticed the focus of the homework has changed and there was a talk for parents, but that is it. So why are some children being put under so much pressure and made to feel stress?
I have asked teachers about this and their opinion was that this was usually down to the teacher. The results for the SATS do not play into the future of the children and so they are largely to determine whether teachers have their pupils on track. The teachers I spoke to (who wish to remain anonymous and are not from my son’s school for those that know us) said that some teachers feel a lot of pressure to demonstrate their performance through test results and it is this that creates pressure and stress for children. I did also speak to my son’s teacher about the tests and she explained that she knew the children and what they were capabable of and that the test results were not the bee all and end all. They are simply part of the equation (I was lost at equation and to this day would probably not pass my SAT in maths!) This more relaxed approach to testing sounds like a remarkably sensible way forward and an approach that I know is right for my child. I, of course, want him to do well, but at just 7 years old I don’t want him to feel that pressure of expectation. I know that his teachers are amazing and are doing a great job so I am not worried about the results of a test. If only all schools and teachers were taking the same pragmatic approach as then there would be less children feeling stressed and fewer parents complaining about the SATS. I am not complaining about them and I am quite happy for my children to be tested, but I will bet I would feel differently if my son were coming home worried about taking them and concerned about the outcome. I feel genuinely sad when I read about little children having anxiety about going to school due to the pressure that they feel.
We need to let little kids be little kids for as long as possible so if you little one is stressed about the SATS remind them that they mean nothing and are really just a test of the teacher rather than the children!!
As a postscript he came home today and told me he had the reading test today and the maths test yesterday. I asked him yesterday what happened at school and he said nothing so that just goes to show how little mind he is paying these tests and at 7 years old I think that is the way it should be!