Opinion: Sats are no big deal - unless you have over-dramatic parents who pass on their anxieties

PUBLISHED: 14:57 02 April 2017 | UPDATED: 14:57 02 April 2017

The worst stress children face with Sats is from over-fussy parents, says Steven Downes. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The worst stress children face with Sats is from over-fussy parents, says Steven Downes. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto


Do you remember those classmates who used to do no revision, appeared to take no notice in lessons, then sauntered coolly into the exam hall and got a decent grade?

I’m afraid to say I was one of those - to the disgust of people who grafted but found the pressure-cooker of exams did not suit them.

The flip side was that I landed on my lazy backside when I had to do coursework, damn its eyes and damn its teeth.

Give me exams any day, or pretty much any tests, including pub quizzes. I specialise in the regurgitation of useless information.

For that reason, I don’t think I’d have been in the least bit bothered by having to do Sats - which were introduced long after I left school.

In fact, I think there has always been far more drama about them than is necessary.

The leading actors in the drama are overweening, overprotective parents: the sort of parents who worry about risk assessments on school trips and charge into school to interrogate teachers when their child hasn’t had a perfect day. You know, the ones for whom every argument is “bullying” and every telling -off unfair.

They fuss about everything that their child eats, vet who they mix with and certainly wouldn’t let them climb a tree.

My experience of being a parent of children going through Sats is that they are only as stressful as you or the school makes them.

At age seven and 11, the tests should be no more than a natural part of a week in the classroom. No pre-Sats revision, no lectures from teachers on how important they are - and absolutely no pressure from parents.

If you don’t make a drama of them, most youngsters will hardly notice that they’re being assessed.

My mob were fine. There were no meltdowns and the test results were never seen as important, merely indicative.

Some parents hate Sats because they assume that their children are as fragile as they are. Once their fussing has reached a pitch, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That’s when you get the disturbing stories about primary school children suffering from anxiety and being sick before leaving home in the morning.

Parents who then accuse the school or the government of harming their little one should have a spell in front of a mirror if they want to see who is to blame.

Nonetheless, despite playing down the damage they create, I’m still pleased that the government is likely to scrap Sats for seven-year-olds.

It’s not because of their effect on children, but because the circus that comes with them is a distraction from delivering education.

Teachers are trained to educate and develop children. They can do that via day-to-day observations as the youngsters write, draw, speak and play.

That’s how it was when I was at Cromer Junior School in the 1980s. Mr Baldwin, Mrs Dickens, Mrs Prince and Mr Bush had from September to July to watch me - ample time to realise that I was a cocky loudmouth, but be kind enough to disguise it in the end-of-year report behind code words like ‘lively’ and ‘garrulous’.

I don’t recall those years being stressful - except on the occasions when my ginger temper got me into trouble.

Hopefully the abolition of Sats for children in year two will alleviate some of the stress for today’s generation.

But it’ll only be truly effective if parents stop making things worse with their controlling behaviour.

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