We want to make one thing very clear. Sidcot’s Junior School students do not sit SATs.
As an independent school, we’ve taken a strong stance on this topic and for a good reason. Only recently, a survey of primary school teachers suggested that SATs exams do not benefit children’s learning and could be bad for their overall well-being. This negative impact goes against everything we believe in when looking to help our Junior School students develop into well-balanced children who are prepared for life.
Why our pupils don’t sit SATs
At Sidcot Junior School, we’ve long held the view that putting children through the stress of SATs exams is not an effective way of helping them grow and learn as people. The above survey cites examples of children crying, having nightmares and being so stressed that they have required additional support to cope with the pressure. It is especially worrying that teachers themselves are now expressing concerns about the welfare of our young children.
That is why we approach education rather differently. We want to create well-rounded students who are prepared for life, not just exams. The qualities we try and promote include being adventurous, being curious, problem-solving and thinking outside of the box. From our experience, it’s extremely difficult to fit in lessons that encourage these kinds of values when there is so much academic pressure for a child to perform for a SATs test.
We assess our students differently
SATs exams were created to evaluate a child’s educational progress. The problem is SATs data can be extremely unreliable. We know as adults, that it is not always possible to perform to our optimum on demand, and it’s the same for children too. In the classroom, there may be a child who is excelling but on the day of the SATs test, they don’t perform as well as they could. It’s unfair to mark them at a lower level when they have shown consistently throughout the year to be doing well.
That is why we assess children’s development differently. Of course we want to ensure they are making good progress, however, we do this over a much longer period of time and in a more natural setting. So we will test them for certain skills throughout the year rather than all in one day. This means children are not judged on just one exam. We know the children and their academic abilities. If they have one off-day, they won’t be judged forever.
Learning outside of the classroom
As a school, we feel privileged to offer a SATs-free environment to our children. Unfortunately there is so much pressure that is unnecessarily placed on students to pass an exam, and that strain can often be too much to bear. We deliver a more holistic education that isn’t always centred on the classroom. We like exciting and fun lessons in an outdoor learning environment, from which children can get so much more.
One particular example of this is our Forest School. Here, students can learn from the natural world. Curiosity and enquiry are at the heart of this. From observing the effects of forces by creating a catapult, to building a den to a design brief, our approach to education gives children the lessons they need to develop enquiring minds and become independent and resourceful learners.