SATs Pressure: Teachers put under pressure in order to tick boxes

I was recently flicking through the latest issue of Teach Primary, a magazine offering advice from the UK’s top education experts, when I came across an article that grabbed my attention.

Titled ‘The Secret Life of Teachers’, this article discusses the results from an anonymous polling app used by teachers, and what these results told us about the hidden habits of our country’s educators.

There was one point in particular that caught my eye: A third of primary teachers were asked to cheat during the SATs exams’.

From this anonymous app, it was found that 1 in 3 primary teachers admitted to being pressured to cheat during SATs exams, most commonly to provide an unwarranted reader, point out mistakes or give the class extra time. This does not mean that a third of teachers did cheat, just that they were pressured to do so.

This point perfectly demonstrates the pressures that teachers are continually being put under when it comes to SATs, just in order to tick a box. But it isn’t just cheating in exams where teachers are being pressured to cut corners.

I have been discussing the topic of the rush to join and the introduction of the pre cursive and continuous cursive style with the lead-in stroke for a number of years now, as well as the effects that this rush to join is having on our children.

There is no long-term benefit of rushing a child to join up their handwriting; it is simply to tick the boxes of the handwriting statements in the Teacher Assessment Frameworks for Key Stage 1, which contradict the handwriting statements in the National Curriculum. What’s more, academies do not have to follow the National Curriculum, but accountability measures incentivise schools to pressurise their teachers to play the system.

Testing joined up handwriting puts schools and teachers under immense pressure to cut corners and rush children into joining up their handwriting before they are ready, causing an epidemic of illegible handwriting in our secondary schools.

As a handwriting expert, I have been, and will continue to be unpicking the issues that this method is having on our children’s handwriting, until something is done to put a stop to it.

Children should be given the adequate time to master the foundations of handwriting before being moved onto letter formation and finally onto joining, but only when they are ready to do so. Rushing a child to join their handwriting before they are ready only results in a lifetime of poor/illegible handwriting.

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