Special study: the impact of SATs

Standard Attainment Tests ( SATs ) have been an built-in portion of summational appraisal in primary instruction since their debut in the 1990s. These trials, happening at the terminal of each of the first two Key Phases, normally take topographic point in May, when Year Two kids sit trials in English and Maths, and Year Six kids are tested in English, Maths and Science.

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The principle for these trials was that the consequences should, foremost, ‘genuinely give information about how kids were making in the National Curriculum ‘ ( Sainsbury and Sizmur, 1996 ) . Second, these appraisals should ‘provide an reliable contemplation of the sorts of work kids have to make in following the course of study ‘ ( Sainsbury and Sizmur, 1996 ) . However, from the beginning, SATs have attracted considerable unfavorable judgment in the media, non merely from instructors and parents, but besides from instruction research workers and authorities functionaries ( Yarker, 2003 ) . This unfavorable judgment stems from the impression that these groups do non believe that either portion of the above principle is being ideologically or practically adhered to. In the first case, they argue that the most of import ground for collating the trial consequences is non to find single kids ‘s attainment degrees, but alternatively to compare the overall attainment of one school with others. In the 2nd case, they argue that the trials, and their execution, do non accurately reflect the scope of educational undertakings undertaken by kids in school: by presenting a series of preponderantly closed inquiries under strict, timed trial conditions, all the trial consequences indicate is a degree of the kids ‘s competency at taking trials, and non their ability in the topic in inquiry.

Harmonizing to Wintle and Harrison ( 1999 ) , these trial consequences are ‘the most important public presentation index used by instructors, inspectors, parents and other professionals. ‘ However, one major constituent group is losing from this statement: the kids taking the trials. It is important to analyze the issues environing the impact that SATs have on these kids, so that an overall position of the state of affairs can be established. These issues can be split into three wide classs. First, it is of import to see how and why kids ‘s acquisition is affected by SATs. Second, kids ‘s attitudes, both towards this facet of their schooling and likewise to the trial itself, necessitate to be discussed and analysed. Finally, it is critical to analyze the emotional effects SATs have on kids, and the causes and effects of these effects.

One of the chief effects on kids ‘s acquisition, harmonizing to research by Connors et Al ( 2009 ) , is the issue of kids being ‘taught to the trial ‘ in the months and hebdomads predating the eventual posing of the SATs. This involves schoolroom activities such as kids larning how to reply typical SATs inquiries and the pickings of pattern trials, in add-on to the bringing of the National Curriculum in the relevant topics. In some respects, this can be good to kids. For illustration, they should be good prepared for the type of inquiries that will be posed in the SATs ; it might be concluded from this that they will derive higher Markss. Furthermore, it may positively impact on kids ‘s behavior, as argued by Hall et Al ( 2004 ) , where the pickings of pattern trials improves kids ‘s concentration and greatly reduces schoolroom break, as they regularly need to expose these properties under trial conditions.

There are, nevertheless, other respects in which the methodical attack of ‘teaching to the trial ‘ may be disadvantageous to kids ‘s acquisition. For case, due to the importance of SATs for summational appraisal intents, instructors feel personally accountable for their students ‘ consequences ( Connors et al, 2009 ) . This is for two chief grounds: foremost, they are responsible for the academic advancement of the kids in their category, and hence experience that whatever Markss these kids achieve in their SATs reflect their competency as practicians. Second, on a broader graduated table, they besides feel pressurised into ‘teaching to the trial ‘ in order to keep or better the school ‘s place in the SATs conference tabular arraies, and besides to run into national marks. This can hold a negative impact on kids ‘s acquisition as, during these to a great extent SATs-focused lessons, kids are taught ‘examination technique instead than developing the cognition and skills the trial is designed to measure ‘ ( Hall et al, 2004 ) . This limits a holistic attack to their instruction, as this learning method revolves around memory and repeat, instead than accomplishments and application. Furthermore, because instructors are limited as to how far they can divert from the course of study, the range for creativeness in these lessons is greatly reduced.

Another manner in which SATs impact upon kids ‘s acquisition concerns the fact that an increasing per centum of the school timetable is being dedicated to the instruction of the SATs topics, harmonizing to research by Webb ( 2006 ) . Although English, Maths and Science, due to their long-established importance across all Key Stages, have ever featured conspicuously in the school agenda, the danger exists that a disproportional sum of the school hebdomad will be spent on the instruction and acquisition of these topics, chiefly caused by the instructors ‘ feeling of personal answerability ( Connors et al, 2009 ) . Consequently, the remainder of the primary course of study topics, particularly art, music and physical instruction ( Webb, 2006 ) may non hold every bit much clip devoted to them. This would adversely impact the kids ‘s right to having a wide and well-balanced primary school course of study. Taking this possible curricular instability a phase further, some schools organise weekend and after-school SATs nines, and some parents enlist private coachs for excess SATs coaching Sessionss ( Byrne and McGavin, 2004 ) . On a positive note, these classs of action may assist to increase kids ‘s assurance and competency in the mark topics. However, these changeless degrees of coaching, both during and after school hours, may alter kids ‘s attitudes towards SATs-orientated instruction and acquisition, and their eventual engagement in the trials themselves.

Harmonizing to research by Connors et Al ( 2009 ) , some kids, particularly those taking the Key Stage Two SATs, see both the anterior readying and the trial itself to be ways of disputing themselves at school. This sense of ‘challenge ‘ can increase kids ‘s motive and application degrees in the schoolroom ( Drummond, 2003 ) , as kids try to run into the demands of an increasing, more intense academic work load, and get new cognition and accomplishments. What is ill-defined, nevertheless, is whether these increased motive and application degrees are mirrored in non-SATs topics. Another positive facet of the ‘challenge ‘ of SATs is that many kids associate difficult work with higher Markss ( Webb, 2006 ) , which can be an extra motivational factor. Although it could be argued that aptitude, instead than attitude, contributes to higher degrees of accomplishment, it is however of import to promote this positive thought. This thought is extended on a societal degree by Byrne and McGavin ( 2004 ) , who argue that the accomplishment of higher Markss can add a competitory component to educational proceedings, as kids try to accomplish more extremely than their equals do. However, it is of import to observe that this has the possible to do emotional hurt to the kid who does non execute every bit good as others, even if the ‘competition ‘ is meant to be friendly and blithe.

In contrast, many kids have a much more negative attitude towards SATs and the instruction and acquisition associated with it. Mentioning back to the ‘challenge ‘ of SATs, harmonizing to research by Hall et Al ( 2004 ) , some kids, instead than sing them as a challenge to be overcome, see them alternatively as either ‘a span excessively far ‘ or, even worse, ‘a complete waste of clip ‘ . In the instance of these kids, these negative attitudes may be caused by a assortment of factors. For illustration, they may be lower winners who find the increased strength of, and the sum of clip devoted to, SATs readying hard to get by with. This can do them to go disillusioned about the SATs, which, in bend, can hold an inauspicious affect on their behavior and motive degrees. At Key Stage Two degree, many schools place kids into ability groups in the SATs topics ( Webb, 2006 ) ; this can relieve this job to a certain extent, as their single acquisition demands can be more suitably catered for. Nevertheless, it could be argued that, although the degree and gait of such acquisition would be more appropriate for lower achieving kids, this solution does non straight address these kids ‘s possible concerns about the sum of clip allocated to the SATs topics. A farther concern for lower achieving kids, harmonizing to Yarker ( 2003 ) , is that, if they do non accomplish what they consider to be ‘good ‘ Markss in the trials themselves, they will be ‘labelled as failures ‘ . It is, nevertheless, of import to clear up that these kids are ne’er ‘labelled ‘ in this manner by instructors, but by the kids themselves, who are concerned about the consequence that SATs consequences will hold on their hereafter, both academically and motivationally.

Another factor that may do kids to hold a negative attitude towards the SATs is highlighted by Wintle and Harrison ( 1999 ) , who argue that the concentration on SATs readying is additive and regimented to such an extent that kids no longer hold any ‘ownership ‘ of it. This can hold a distinguishable attitudinal consequence on the kids. They may go disillusioned by the fact that, because of the focal point on SATs work, they are merely undertaking activities and undertakings for the interest of cognizing how to make them for SATs intents, instead than for the benefit of their ain acquisition. Cullingford ( 2006 ) echoes this position, saying that, with respect to SATs readying, ‘children perceive their undertaking in school as non so much to believe as to think what it is that the instructors want ‘ .

Furthermore, farther research conducted by Cullingford ( 2006 ) suggests that many kids, peculiarly those at Key Stage Two degree, are surprisingly cognizant of ‘the importance of SATs ‘ and even ‘the significance of conference tabular arraies ‘ . It can hence be argued that they consider SATs to be one of the most, if non the most important facet of their schooling during the concluding twelvemonth of each Key Stage. This attitude can hold a positive or inauspicious consequence on their committedness to the SATs and the readying for them ; once more, this depends on the attitude and aptitude of single kids.

This surprisingly common consciousness of the importance of both the SATs and the consequences they achieve in them is one manner in which kids can go non merely attitudinally affected, but besides emotionally affected by them. In this case, because of the strong focal point on fixing for the trials, kids may experience pressurised, and in many instances overly so, for two chief grounds. First, harmonizing to a survey by Connors et Al ( 2009 ) , some kids put themselves under force per unit area to execute good because they have ‘worrisome ideas and concerns about the effects of failure ‘ if they do non. It could be argued that this degree of concern should hold no topographic point in the head of a kid of primary school age, although it does further exemplify the importance the kids topographic point on SATs. Second, many kids realise that SATs consequences are of import to their instructors ; accordingly, the kids besides perceive them as of import ( Webb, 2006 ) . This realization, by and large talking, is a subconscious 1: the kids are non told outright by the instructor that the SATs are of import. Alternatively, the curricular focal point on the readying for the SATs signifies their importance in the kids ‘s heads. Furthermore, if the kids respect their instructor ( the manner they should in an ideal state of affairs ) , so they may experience under force per unit area to execute good in the SATs to try to turn out that their instructor has taught them good, therefore heightening their repute. One concluding of import point about this sort of force per unit area is that it may non needfully have a negative consequence on all kids ; conversely, some kids may boom on it, and work harder and accomplish higher as a effect.

It can be argued that any addition in force per unit area will increase the likeliness of emphasis and anxiousness, peculiarly in the instance of kids, who will non hold had the experience of get bying with such force per unit area additions at this phase of their lives. Harmonizing to Yarker ( 2003 ) , kids, peculiarly at Key Stage One degree, become stressed through changeless ‘teaching to the trial ‘ and trial pattern, due to both its strength, and its execution to the evident exclusion of the remainder of the course of study. However, Byrne and McGavin ( 2004 ) , whilst admiting the emphasis that this may do to kids, argue that it is the idea of, and the engagement in, the trials themselves that cause the highest degrees of emphasis and anxiousness in kids. In certain terrible instances, research has even discovered a direct nexus between these SATs related emphasis degrees that can be damaging to the kid ‘s wellness and their life outside school, such as loss of slumber ( Yarker, 2003 ) , loss of appetency ( Hall et al, 2004 ) and concerns ( Connors et al, 2009 ) .

With respect to kids ‘s emotions about the chance of being officially tested, some kids were ‘excited ‘ and were looking frontward to taking the trials, harmonizing to a study by Connors et Al ( 2009 ) . A possible ground for this could be the fact that they may see the trials as the apogee of their difficult work, and they offer them the opportunity to set their freshly acquired accomplishments and cognition into pattern. They can turn out to themselves and to their instructors that they have learnt what the trials require them to larn. In contrast, other kids can expose marks of jitteriness and apprehensiveness during the period instantly anterior to taking the trials ( Connors et al, 2009 ) . Reasons for this could include the fright of acquiring a ‘poor ‘ consequence, which may non merely adversely affect their self-esteem, but may besides do the kid think that their instructor ( and perchance their parents and their equals ) will believe less of them as a consequence. They may besides worry that they have non worked hard plenty, or non achieved plenty in the mark subjects to obtain the degree that they want to accomplish. Furthermore, kids can frequently hold jobs during the pickings of the trial itself ( Byrne and McGavin, 2004 ) , non merely for the aforesaid grounds, but besides due to other factors. For case, many kids, peculiarly at Key Stage One degree, may happen it hard to explicate replies and recall old acquisition and cognition under the force per unit area of timed trial conditions. Furthermore, if the kid is non in a prepared, focussed frame of head before the trial starts, this can impact their public presentation on the twenty-four hours, which could take to a lower, potentially deceptive trial consequence.

In decision, it is clear from the grounds that primary schools take the procedure of fixing kids for the SATs trials really earnestly. However, the manner in which this issue is approached depends on the single school concerned, and the ways in which they implement their instruction and schoolroom processs. One thing remains changeless, though. Regardless of the methods used, and the logical thinking behind them, SATs will hold an academic, attitudinal and emotional impact on kids ‘s instruction in the concluding twelvemonth of each Key Stage. Although the grounds available has preponderantly shown a prejudice towards SATs holding a negative impact in these respects, they can hold a positive impact under the right physical and mental conditions. In the same manner that the attack to SATs depends on the single school, the degree and the disposition of the impact depends on the single kid, and their single degree of aptitude, dedication, self-belief and resoluteness.

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