Journalism Must Do Better

Whilst I endorse any journalism that shines a light on the wide problems inherent in SATs, I would turn the headline of this article back on that journalism itself and suggest it ‘must do better’.

Examples of SATs ‘cheating’ have been on the increase over recent years, apparently, and this is by teachers/Head teachers rather than examinees. This is obviously wrong, but it would also be wrong not to expose the pressures that push teachers to this extreme reaction – this ‘pressure’ itself one of the key elements for opposing SATs, as mentioned in this article when referring to another boycott by parents in May of this year.

So that’s cheating and pressure [pressure on staff and students to be clear] as key reasons for boycotting. Then there’s this rationale: ‘Unlike GCSEs and A-levels, Sats [sic] have no bearing on a child’s future.’ So cheating and pressure and no bearing on future of students.

This is a well-meaning focus but it does seem lazy journalism to me. The assertion of ‘no bearing on future’ is obviously inaccurate in that the ‘pressure’ already acknowledged will have an impact: the judgements made in secondary schools when students enter with their SATs ‘grades’ leads to expectations and demands and targets – and yes – pressure!

OK, that may seem like a nuance, but in the context of failing yet again to tackle the key reason for challenging the existence of SATs – which is in their lack of educational value – this is actually an important clarification to raise. That’s their education value as a means of fostering effective teaching and learning and then the assessment of this.

Once more with my caveat that I can only speak knowingly about the woeful purpose and effect of English SATs [but I think one can fairly extrapolate], national journalism, especially in The Guardian/Observer, needs to do better in also highlighting these fundamental questions about purpose and effect. As an educational tool they are on the one hand utterly meaningless, but on the other they are precisely that: a tool. A tool for successive governments to claim they have created and implement a rigorous assessment of national standards.

No they don’t. It is a sham [and most countries do not implement similar at this age]. My own rationale for exposing this sham is well-documented on this blog here, for anyone really that interested [perhaps not that many, and probably not on one more, at least, sunny April day!].

In the article I am challenging there is much sensitive and empathetic reporting about the detrimental effects/impact of SATs, not least on narrowing the primary school curriculum, so I do acknowledge that. But I would like to see more of the teaching and learning argument against them reported. I think readers can absorb this. That’s all. And this has been my teacher’s detailed advice to flesh out the otherwise scant feedback of ‘must do better’.

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