This month has seen the annual SATs testing of all Year 6 children up and down the country. Also, as I write this, my loving and delightful Year 2 children are embarking on their end of Key Stage assessments. It has been well documented that children have been in tears over the content and the pitch of these statutory assessments. Sadly, I have to confess, I've seen a trace of this disbelief from the children in the pitch of the KS1 assessments. Yes, I've taught Year 2 for the past three years and the shift in the expectations from new assessments in reading and mathematics has increased. While I haven't witnessed any children in tears, you could almost certainly feel the confidence and children's love for learning sink as the tests progressed. This hasn't been helped by the constant 'teaching to the test' that appears to happen in Year 6 classrooms across the country as the SATs approach.
Admittedly, I could write another blog post about the need to scrap SATs and rely on teacher judgements. However, I have to be thankful that science hasn't fallen fowl to this teaching to the test and sucking out the love of the subject.
In 2009, science tests were abolished. At the time, there was concern that science, although still a core subject, would loose it's status. Yes, I have to agree that teaching and learning of science is not as much as a priority in schools as it was before formal testing was abolished. Why, it isn't even included in the half-termly pupil progress reviews. However, it's important to look at the bigger picture. I have to admit that science can sometimes feel like the poor relation in comparison to English and mathematics. But, looking at the pressure, stress and expectations for children to perform in the Year 6 SATs I'm quite pleased.
Science is a subject I am passionate about and could gladly teach primary science all day, every day. But why? Of course, I enjoy facilitating opportunities for children to ask questions and explore the world around them that's the magic of such an amazing subject. However, just as importantly, I enjoy the autonomy that comes from teaching a subject that is without formal testing pressures. There is no fear for me to ensure the children I teach can perform on a given day - just one of the many problems with assessing such a creative subject. More than this, and probably most important, the abolishment of formal testing and the reliance on teacher judgements in science attainment has allowed teachers to teach, children to learn and passion to flourish.
Am I frustrated that science can sometimes be considered a poor relation in comparison to English and mathematics? Yes.
However, I would much rather teach a subject that is slightly less 'valued' which allows children to develop confidence and a love of learning science than be forced to sit uninspiring and confidence-blowing assessments.
I just hope that teachers can be given the autonomy to make judgements on their children's learning in English and mathematics and be allowed the freedom to teach without the undue pressure of formal assessments.