When my children were at school the SATS were just being introduced. I think my daughter was in year two she was the second or third cohort of SATS. As parents we were told that the SATS were there to assess the standard of teaching and not the child’s abilities. When did this change? It is now used as a tool to group children in terms of ability. I always told my children that the tests or exams they take today will only determine the time until the next exam or test. They do not determine the rest of your life, although teachers seem to think that they will. As with any exam it will gauge your level of understanding of a topic on that day, there are too many variables for it to be an accurate assessment of your true abilities. I read a comment on Twitter earlier that was along the lines of ‘why do we forget everything we studied the minute we leave the exam room’ To me the answer is simple, for exam purposes we store the information in short term memory, once used we can either forget it or transfer it to long term memory, most of us forget it, or at the very least forget most of it. Of the exams I took in my final year of school, I cannot remember much of it, there was something about how many coins of the same value you can legal use to pay for things, I remember learning about rivers, and never understanding binary. Ok I admit that was all a very long time ago, but at the same time I was training to be a referee for judo competitions, and I can remember a lot more of that and I haven’t used that for over 25 years. My point is that we push our children to achieve grades to progress them onto the next stage in their life, but it is not information they will remember for any length of time unless they are either exceptional or using it regularly. Why is it important that at the age of 10 a child can plot a point on a map using co-ordinates or know how to measure the perimeter of a square or distinguish a polygon from a pentagon. To me it would be wiser to ensure they can add, subtract, divide and multiply effectively and using various language for the operations. Consolidate learning so that it becomes more of a long term memory.
You may be asking what all of this has to do with non competitive sports. It is quite simple, the argument given in primary education when asked why children do not compete during sports is that children’s self esteem is damaged when they lose, so we play games that encourage sport for enjoyment. Sport takes up about 1 hour of the school week, some children, especially as they get older, do find sports difficult; hand eye coordination, contact, etc. but then many children find maths and spelling difficult yet they take up over half of the school week and we encourage competition through testing and examining short term memory.
There may be educators reading this who will possibly not like my final comment, but parents please do not force academic education onto your children, unless they want to learn, SATS and exams are not the determining factor in life, they just determine the time until the next exam or test. Allow children time to enjoy education, they benefit much more from that.