Headteacher’s anger over ‘ludicrous’ new SATs system

Headteacher Helen Williamson
Headteacher Helen Williamson

A headteacher has described her anger with a “deeply flawed” new testing system she said left children thinking they were failures.

Helen Williamson, of Billingshurst Primary School (BPS), sent a strongly worded letter to parents after children in Years 2 and 6 received their SATs results.

A system that defines ‘failure’ at the primary phase is, in my opinion, ludicrous.

Helen Williamson, Billingshurst Primary School

Both groups of children were the first to take the new tests, which have been criticised by teachers all over the country as being too tough.

Miss Williamson said she felt “professionally compromised” having to share the results with parents, adding: “This is the first year of the revised assessment for the new curriculum coming into force for all children and I believe it to be deeply flawed.

“A system that defines ‘failure’ at the primary phase is, in my opinion, ludicrous.”

Only 45 per cent of West Sussex primary schoolchildren met the expected new standards, compared to 77 per cent last year. Nationwide, the trend was similar, with just 53 per cent making the grade in reading, writing and maths.

The Department for Education said the results were “not comparable” as they were achieved using two entirely different systems of assessment.

Most children, though, were still left with the belief that, according to the government’s new standards, they were not measuring up.

It was that point that particularly angered Miss Williamson and her team.

She said: “What makes us all professionally angry is that some children may finish the end of this year feeling that they have failed. We must do all we can to tell them they have not.”

She told parents: “One thing I want to make clear is that no child, in any year group, at BPS has ‘failed’. The children here are talented, kind, intelligent, creative, funny, engaging, ambitious, thirsty for knowledge and all will succeed, with our appropriate support, at what they choose to do in the future.”

Miss Williamson added: “Consider something you have recently enjoyed – Adele at Glastonbury? Was the first question you thought of ‘Ah but did she reach age-related expectations at seven or 11?”

When it came to results, last year BPS saw 91 per cent of children achieve the expected standard in reading, 86 per cent in writing and 92 per cent in maths. This year’s results were below the national average, which Miss Williamson described as “a disappointment for the school”.

She placed the blame firmly at the feet of former education secretary Nicky Morgan and her predecessor, Michael Gove. Speaking before Justine Greening took over from Mrs Morgan, she said: “The only failure is in the rushed, badly thought-out, politically motivated assessment arrangements imposed on schools this year.

“And for that I hold the Department for Education and the Secretary of State, current and previous, wholly responsible.”

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