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Sats experience as far from testing

PUBLISHED: 10:11 08 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:24 06 July 2010

A LETTER should arrive soon informing me that school staff will refuse to give my son "coaching" for his Sats next year.

The letter - to be sent to parents of about 600,000 current Year 5 children - will tell us our children's education will not be "disrupted" by the "tyranny of testing".

A LETTER should arrive soon informing me that school staff will refuse to give my son “coaching” for his Sats next year.

The letter - to be sent to parents of about 600,000 current Year 5 children - will tell us our children's education will not be “disrupted” by the “tyranny of testing”.

Primary schools will withdraw any preparation for the tests for 11-year-olds and refuse to administer or invigilate on the day of the tests as a one in the eye for Ed Balls.

Just like that. Because they don't like it, they're not going to do it. So there.

Imagine if we all decided to stop doing bits of our jobs we didn't like or thought unfair?

The teachers and heads might see themselves as saviours of our education system for the heroic act of withdrawing their services to our children.

Their refusal to do what they're paid to do - by us, the taxpayer, remember - according to what their boss demands - a minister democratically elected again by us - will bring the whole Sats system crashing down, they believe.

Then “normal” education for 10 and 11-year-olds can resume, they say. By normal, I presume they mean untested, which for teachers therefore means unchecked with achievement rates unmeasured. How normal is that? Or helpful, to anyone?

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers which has voted for the boycott along with the National Union of Teachers, said: “We are advising children should not be prepared for the tests at all.”

Well, Mr Brooks, I'd like my son to be prepared, thank you very much, and to sit his Sats just like his brother did, with no ill effects. I, like many parents, don't view testing as “tyranny” and don't appreciate teachers playing games with my children's schooling.

Our Sats experience last year was far from the hell teachers describe.

My son positively enjoyed his Sats week, especially the special “brain-boosting breakfast” his lovely teacher offered all week in her mobile with her own toaster, crumpets, toast, jam, honey and marmite.

He and his classmates enjoyed the challenge, rose to that challenge and then forgot all about them.

Far from the stressful, anxiety-ridden week teachers describe, my son and his class took the tests in their stride at the end of their last year at their small village primary that comprised far more than Sats preparation and a lot of hard work by the teacher and her teaching assistant. And, most importantly, fun in their learning.

Many exceeded expectations and it was a delight to see their glee when the results were published. And their parents. Some didn't, but that's life.

Sats might be an imperfect system but it's the only one we've got to monitor how well everyone - from pupil to teacher - is doing. A league table might not be the best yardstick but it is a yardstick.

Even with the discipline of Sats and the focus of teachers trying to bring 11-year-olds up to level 4 standard, a quarter still fail English and Maths. Imagine how many more would leave primary school sorely lacking in the basics if there was no impetus for teachers to bring children up to a designated standard?

Sats should not be about cramming - they should be a summing up of six years at school.

Eleven is not too young to test - seven is. These children are four months away from starting at secondary school and becoming young adults.

All this drivel about protecting them is so phoney. The only people the teachers want to protect are themselves and their own failings to teach the basics.

So, if and when I receive a letter I shall be writing straight back telling the heads it's not good enough. We keep our side of the bargain, sending our children to school ready to learn, monitoring homework, encouraging them to work and behave well.

The least they can do is do what they're paid and contracted to do.

And I'd advise every other parent to do the same.

Speaking of heroic acts, there can be no braver incredible man alive than Major Phil Packer.

His mental and physical strength makes us stand in awe and incredible respect for mind over matter.

Less than two months ago, Phil took his first unaided steps after being told he would never walk again after a horrific accident in Iraq left him paralysed from the waist down.

Tomorrow he will finish his 13-day London marathon following the route of last Sunday's race on crutches to raise £1million for Help for Heroes for other injured servicemen and women.

The words hero and awesome are bandied around too much these days. When the truly heroic like Phil need describing, there are no words adequate enough.

Getting knocked out cold is a hazard of being a boxer - it's practically in the job description - so the hysterics of Ricky Hatton's girlfriend ringside as he lay on the Las Vegas canvas were a tad bemusing.

It's what happens in the gruesome so-called “sport” the rest of us call barbarity.

Or perhaps the sight of him out cold scared her into thinking his lucrative career was over.

Jennifer Dooley gave up her job as a college lecturer two years ago to “support” Hatton, who has earned almost £40 million.

Perhaps she feared this support would be literal if her finance ended up permanently damaged by a lifetime of blows to the head, another side effect of the job.

But, for some, £40 million is worth losing your faculties for. Such obscene amounts for such an obscene activity.

As the vultures circle and so-called friends stab him in the chest in full public view, Gordon Brown hasn't much to be happy about.

Apart from the best decision he made - to marry, late in life, the lovely Sarah.

And this decision alone makes it almost impossible to do anything but hope against hope for Brown to succeed.

Sarah Brown is magnificent. To have such a normal, straightforward, charming, hard-working and resourceful woman - who according to those who meet her would be the ideal new best friend - by his side is his best asset.

As her husband lumbers from one mess to another, she just seems to get everything right, conducting herself with decorum, intelligence and dignity, is sharp, clever, yet warm and relaxed and such a contrast from her predecessor Cherie Blair.

She needs to get on with giving all those plotters a good talking to.

If looks could kill, the poor violinist on Saturday's Britain's Got Talent should have keeled over by the stage.

Sue Son's best friend was clearly livid that judges had panned their double act but invited Sue to audition solo. Now the women aren't speaking.

Friends are supposed to be pleased for their friends successes but Janine Khalil, according to her mother, was “let down and humiliated.” Her mother should have told her to grow up and buck her ideas up and back her friend. Because that's what friends do.Not wallow in self-pity and cut their best friend off in a hissy fit of jealousy, fuelled, it appears, by a mother.

With fair-weather best friends like that, who needs enemies?

Act in haste, repent at leisure.

Lauren Booth, half-sister of Cherie Booth, has discovered how an ill advised dabble on Facebook can wreak havoc and despair.

She took petty revenge after arguing with her husband by changing her marital status on Facebook from 'married' to “single”. They made up, she forgot all about it but unbeknown to her, an alert was sent to her friends and her husband got a ribbing from his mates.

After 20 years together, he was understandably hurt.

But, before she could explain, he came off his motorbike and is now in a coma in hospital with Lauren cursing her millisecond of stupidity and at her wits' end as she tries to comfort their two young daughters.

These sites make it so easy to vent our spleens, take a pop and be clever - but the consequences can be tragic. As always, it's best to keep our own counsel.

Speeding tickets earn the Treasury £88 million a year - £250,000 every day.

Where is it all going? Not on road safety. On more cameras? And on bumping up the Government coffers to offset some of its debt.

At least two tickets are handed out every minute making motorists a handy cash cow for a cash-strapped Government - £840 million in the last decade. That money could give us the safest roads in the world.

But we have the power to hit the Government where it hurt. Just obey the law in the first place and speed.

Now she tells us.

We've spent years at our wits end trying to persuade - read, force - our children to eat fish pie and dishes sprinkled with health-giving pomegranate and now Nigella fesses up and admits her children won't eat her food.

If she can't tempt her daughter and son to wolf down the recipes we religiously spend hours replicating in our kitchens, no wonder our second rate attempts are greeted with: “Yuk. This is disgusting.”

According to her: “If it is not plastic or out of a box. Then they are not interested.”

So who eats her food? Her husband purportedly lives on eggs, her children on plastic. It doesn't say much about her life's work, does it?

Why do people want to look ridiculous for the only photo they'll look at for a lifetime?

There is one thing worse than fancy dress - fancy dress for “themed” weddings.

As if the Shrek-themed wedding a couple of weeks ago - complete with green faces - wasn't a lesson to all but now Duncan Thomson and Sammi Gardiner dressed as Star Wars characters - and forced their guests to do the same.

Adults in fancy dress - there should be a law against it.

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