Dyslexia: year 6 SATS…
As I write this I just feel sad… I feel sad because next week my son is going to take the national tests which are going to measure his attainment and knowledge in just 3 areas. Reading, Spelling, grammar and Punctuation and Maths. The government, (who don’t even know my son) are then going to pop the results and data into a computer and they are going to use the data to predict his future, make future decisions about the education system, make broad sweeping judgements about children’s attainment and use the results to measure a schools success.
I feel sad because although I hope with every piece of my heart that next week when he sits his SATS a miracle is going to happen and in July when we get the results he will be ARE (Are Related Expectations.) But if I’m honest with myself I don’t think he will be ARE (whatever that term actually means) and that suggests his effort and my efforts and schools efforts are not good enough and that makes me angry…
Bill is a May baby. Bill started at the most amazing Montissori pre school when he was 2. He went for his 5 sessions regularly, for 2 years before starting school. Bill left pre school,writing his name and knowing how to read a handful of letter sounds and names. Bill started school at the age of 4, he was not ready to learn. He spent his Reception year playing. Playing in the mud kitchen, with cars and in the pirate ship. He left Reception year having achieved his early learning goals, just! He still didn’t have a preferred hand to write with but he could write key words, learnt his spellings every week, completed homework under duress and read EVERY night to me or my husband.
Bill was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was 7, because I am a specialist teacher of dyslexia and I could see the signs. Despite the effort and interventions from school and home his progress in reading and spelling was slow and inconsistent. He still wasn’t really ready to learn but boy that kid tried. His teachers praised his effort and did all they could to get him to make progress. He did his year 2 SATS achieving national average 2b for reading a 2a for maths and a 2c for writing.Bill attends a good school with elements of outstanding. I have NEVER had a big issue with how the school have met his needs and supported his Dyslexia. There have been odd things at different times but nothing the school and I haven’t been able to work out.
In year 3 and suddenly understanding what school was about Bill was making progress but the effort he was having to put in was huge and did not equal what he got out. Whilst he could read now, it was not natural to him and he was still struggling to comprehend. Spelling, despite intervention, was still a barrier to him getting ideas onto paper and written work and tests were never a true representation of his understanding or ability.
Verbally Bill is so bright. I know he’s mine but, he’s the kind of kid a teacher loves to teach, every school report says so. He is interested and fascinated with the world, empathetic and gentle. As the curriculum stepped up in year 4 and he lost his sparkle because his working memory and processing difficulties impacted on how he was able to access the curriculum he became disengaged with school. He felt like he was drowning, like he couldn’t keep up, and was so aware that despite his efforts he was still bottom of the class and not seeming to be getting anywhere. We employed a private tutor once a week to support him secure the important basic skills and to try and improve his spelling, although any specialist teacher of dyslexia and parent of a child with dyslexia or person with dyslexia knows that no matter how much remedial teaching you receive spelling will always be an area requiring development. He has also learnt study skills, increased his confidence and improved his resilience with learning thorough these sessions.
He made progress through year 4 and year 5 and the gap between he and his peers was closing. I was hopeful, hopeful that he would gain 4bs, maybe even 4as for his year 6 SATS. Then the government went and moved the goal posts and suddenly the goal seemed unobtainable but we didn’t give up. Bill entered year 6 knowing it would be a hard year but prepared to work hard. I knew that even if he worked hard it was going to be touch and go as to whether he would be able to achieve his SATS as or not. We continued with tuition, he continued to work hard, his amazing teacher continued to be meet his needs affectively and his progress across all subjects has been amazing. He has 100% attendance, in fact I think in his entire school life he has only had 7 days absent room school. Has completed all of his homework continued to read most nights and put in 110% effort.
He could not have done more. We as parents could not have done more. School could not have done more. So why am I left with a feeling of dread and a feeling of utter despair in my stomach as the impending SATs test approach.
Because I have seen the practise papers. He has done practise papers and only manages to get 50%… Will this be enough… No one knows… He knows more about clauses and more terminology about grammar than I will ever know but this test in lumped in with spelling… With the best will in the world he still gets the right letters but in the wrong order and owing to phonological difficulties misses sounds from words and can’t always identify the correct vowel. If he does not pass these tests there will be no reward for his effort or his progress… Simply a pass or fail… Simply secondary ready or not secondary ready according to the government…
The government will use his data as a statistic to predict how successful he can be or what he will become… This is not Growth mindset, this is not embracing the whole child, this is not every child matters and this is not equality.
No tests will define what my son will become and no test will tell him what he can and cannot be. The thing that the tests will not measure are his resilience, his determination to succeed, his empathy of others, his caring gentle nature, his love of music, his ability to compose music and pick out rhythms and beats within songs, his ability to prove everyone wrong, his bike riding skills, his ability to motivate and support others, his love of life and his tenacity and verbally articulate enquiring mind that is desperate to discover how things work, why things happened and his ability to lead people and make a positive difference, his ability to support and nurture others when put in a situation where he can succeed and shine.
The government can set their unrealistic and single minded targeted of what makes a person successful and what makes a person achieve. The government can continue to make crazy decisions about education and the direction it should go, constantly raising the bar and constantly telling schools and pupils their extended efforts are not good enough… But what the government underestimates is that I, along with many other parents don’t really care what the results for these tests are, and if our children don’t pass then it does not really matter to us.
If he is not ARE in July his school has not failed him, his teacher has not failed him, his support staff have not failed him, we as parents have not failed him, he has not failed himself… The government have failed him by creating a system which does not reflect or accept individuality or capture a holistic view of people and how they actually function and learn. When will the government acknowledge that people are not robots but complex beings of which there are a million factors and variables that you cannot control or measure and these vary from person to person.
If he is ARE that’s great but if he isn’t ARE the people who matter to him won’t view him as a failure, they will view him as they always have, a kid. A kid who tries his hardest and a kid that at the end of the day will be what ever he wants to be because no test at the age of 10 has the power to define what a person will or will not become because there are a million other ways to shine as a person and a million other ways to be successful and perhaps one of these will define him instead.
Author of ‘Don’t forget to Smile, A memoir uncovering the hidden difficulties of dyslexia.’
Available on Amazon