Today I sent this letter to J and L’s teacher. Whilst some of the details will be different for each teacher and each parent, the sentiment holds true for so many dedicated, patient, hard-working, caring teachers.
Dear Miss B,
This week your pupils will take their SATs. Many, many parents across the country have publicly voiced their opposition to testing our young children in this way, and some schools were rightly praised for writing to their pupils assuring them that SATs don’t test or recognise all their special gifts that make them unique, wonderful people. At the same time, concerned parents received the response that we should not feel worried as SATs are there to test schools and teachers rather than the pupils themselves. If this is true then perhaps it is the teachers rather than the pupils who deserve the most reassurance.
With this in mind I wanted to write to you to recognise how little the SATs results will show about what kind of teacher we know you are. The results won’t show, for example, how your class adored you from the day they met you. The SATs won’t reflect the warmth with which you greet our children each morning; the way you have got to know and care about them as individuals; the way you recognise when something is wrong; or the way you deal with problems so sensitively and professionally. The SATs don’t acknowledge the long hours you work in the evenings and at weekends, or the fact you come to work with a smile even on the days when you’re not feeling terribly cheerful.
The SATs don’t know that J and L fight over who gets to “be” you when they play schools at home. The results won’t acknowledge the time and care you have put into thinking of creative ways to engage J in his learning; the fact you’ve never made me feel like his autism is just another problem for you to deal with; or the huge strides he’s made this year in his ability to participate in a lesson thanks to you. The SATs don’t see how much L loves going to school, or the way her eyes shine with excitement as she tells me about your innovative lessons. They don’t reflect the fact that you have inspired her to create books and further her knowledge at home, or that she has already shed tears at the realisation that you won’t be her teacher next year.
Your class’s SATs results won’t reflect the time you spend listening patiently at parents’ evenings, never making us feel rushed or a nuisance, and always responding in a positive and proactive way. They won’t show what it means to us as parents to leave our children in the care of someone who makes them feel so safe, nurtured and happy.
The results of your class’s SATs tests do, of course, tell us something. Naturally we want our children to receive a high standard of education. We want their knowledge, understanding, and skills to improve while they are at school, and for them to reach their full academic potential. The SATs results tell us something, but they do not tell us everything. As an ex-teacher myself I remember the anxiety of knowing my abilities as a teacher would be judged on the basis of how my pupils performed under exam conditions. I want you to know that I – we – have judged you on so much more already, and are deeply indebted to you for the very, very many ways you have enriched our children’s lives since they started Year 2.