We have just finished our Mock Sats week for Year 6. We used last year’s papers with an arithmetic paper instead of the mental maths so that it was close to what the pupils and the rest of the school will experience in May. Generally it was a positive experience. The pupils realised that they could survive a week of tests and the teachers were pleasantly surprised by how much progress the children have made. We have slowly been getting to grips with grammar rules and mathematical methods and gradually, things seem to be coming together. Even allowing for the expected greater difficulty in this year’s tests, most of our Year do seem to be on track to achieve a good result.
And then we looked at their writing.
As a school, we have always done a lot of writing. Our pupils write a lot in all subjects which gives them a lot of practise. Last year, we achieved 95% level 4 and above in writing and the moderators agreed with all of our judgements. This year, the picture is very different. Using the new standards to assess their most recent writing was very depressing. I currently have 2 children who are at the ‘expected’ standard and another 6 or 7 who are on target to get there in time to have enough evidence to prove it. That leaves two thirds of my class working towards (and some of them aren’t even at that level).
It cannot possibly be right that my pupils are good at reading, maths and grammar but can’t write. In fact, I know it isn’t correct because I enjoyed their adventure stories yesterday. Many of them were exciting and showed a real flair and enjoyment of writing. But they didn’t tick nearly enough boxes.
Last year, our writing scores and our Maths scores were pretty much the same. This year, our writing results look like being ridiculously low. The children are making progress and working their socks off but, through no fault of their own, will be judged as failing to make the grade.
I really feel that the ridiculous hike in writing standards is the straw that could break the back of my teaching career. It has been such a difficult year for Year 6 pupils and teachers trying to teach and learn all the new methods and vocabulary and we have all risen to the challenge. However, the increased demands in writing and the shortened time available to get the evidence for this are totally unreasonable.
Surely, schools need to take action on this. How hard would it be for all schools to simply refuse to submit writing levels? We would still be doing our jobs. No child would suffer. We would simply refuse to submit to unreasonable demands.
I realise that this is probably far too simplistic but I can’t see why it can’t be done.