My third and final daughter is about to begin her Yr 6 SATS tomorrow. And I’m really wondering whether or not she should even try to do as well as I know she wants to. That may seem like a ridiculous thing to say, and of course it is, but I only say it because I am aware of what implications a strong score in the SATS will have on her for the reminder of her secondary schooling: Perennial pressure of reaching expected targets; absolutely zero tolerance for wavering off the path; continuous intervention should any personal or developmental change impede expected progress; continuous intervention should any emotional issues impede expected progress; subtle (or maybe not so) psychological damage caused by disappointment in teachers’ faces.
It seems it would be counterintuitive for her to be highly successful in these exams. It’s not going to affect her placement in secondary school, but will certainly affect expectations of her performance for the next five years. I am expecting her to do really well, as her English and maths are both very good, but I worry that she may be setting herself up for psychological warfare, with the high expectations that will inevitably be placed on her always used against her, rather than trust being placed in her own desire and motivation is to be successful.
“For a great number of secondary students, the sword is in fact mightier than the pen.”
This is an important consideration, when we realise just how much change and how much context affects students going through secondary school. For a great number of secondary students, the sword is in fact mightier than the pen. Ask anybody who has taught in a reasonably challenging socio-economic area and they will agree: despite every best intention and intervention, context often wins. I may be wrong, and I certainly don’t claim to be certain of it, but it seems that for most primary aged students, contextual considerations can be more easily mitigated compared with their secondary counterparts, possibly because students go through puberty and possibly experience far greater exposure and understanding of the contextual situations they find their lives in. They tend to react more to the situation, begin to have more voice, more angst, and become more aware of their plight; they become more affected by difficult home lives or friendship or emotional issues, or parental breakups, and schooling can often take a back seat. Yet the pressures that we as teachers maintain on the students having observed their SATS performance and consequently their expected targets for the end of year 11, remain.
Such pressures though are not confined to those from low socio-economic backgrounds. One of the problems with flying high, is that there is little room to play with. Any deviation from the path can be accompanied by extreme amounts of pressure, sometimes applied by the students themselves as they look to their target grade.
I’ve got no problems at all with my daughter doing exams. She is actually semi looking forward to them because she likes learning, knows that exams will be testing her learning, and she’s up for the challenge. But I don’t think that her performance now in grade 6 should really determine her life for the next five years.