The irony of Sats week falling into line with Mental Health

Tracy Gladman, Education and Business Manager with the Worrinots discusses the cost of Sats week on our children’s mental health

So it’s finally here Sats week for year 6, and we wish them the very best of luck.  All that planning, preparation, encouraging, nurturing and inspiring children to learn in the comfort of their classroom will be put to the test.  But at what cost?

We keep reading of the impact and increase in Mental Health issues in children and young people but does the Sats procedure contribute towards it?  There is much contradiction surrounding the expectation of the regular school day and the reality of the expectation of Sats week. 

Children thrive academically when they are happy in a familiar environment.  Relaxed staff, the class is smooth running …. then something changes; the build-up starts, the teachers get more stressed, the atmosphere changes, the child’s environment changes, the pressure is increasing

It’s well known that children thrive on routine and we also know that they need to learn how to cope with and manage change.  However this change is usually a gradual transition to allow children time to adjust.   Every day children arrive at school prepared for a structured day, knowing they will be learning in groups, able to discuss their learning, ask questions and give feedback.  They are [mostly] happy in their knowledge of arriving at school knowing practical activities have been planned for them and their learning will be [largely] fun.

Children thrive academically when they are happy in a familiar environment.  Relaxed staff, the class is smooth running, children working with their support staff, going along with its daily challenges the children are comfortable with.  Then something changes; the build-up starts, the teachers get more stressed, the atmosphere changes, the child’s environment changes, the pressure is increasing, so are teachers’ stress levels again, and then it happens. 

Staff morale drops, some are like a pressure cooker waiting for someone to push the release button, Support staff are taken away from children that need it and children feel tense and under pressure to perform.  Usually the calm before the storm leads to an eruption, however the when Sats storm arrives it is an almost silent one and the child’s, and staff’s own storm takes place somewhere else.

Children are taken out of their comfort zone of routine and expected to perform to their highest standard.  Not a gradual transition, but an overnight change in regime.  The whole school environment changes and everyone is put under unrealistic and unnecessary pressure.  We know  our childhood experiences can have a lasting impact on us into our adult lives, maybe the impact of Sats is having a detrimental lasting effect.

In times of uncertainty children are expected to turn to trusted staff in the school environment to seek help and reassurance, however ironically this year Sats falls on Mental Health Awareness week.  Where the emotional intelligence of everyone changes.  It could be questionable whether some members of staff are in a healthy state of mind to be reassuring for students, or indeed if the students recognise the change and determine the staff unapproachable.

The school is transformed from a bustling and vibrant environment into a whispering, tense factory where children are ushered around in silence, tiptoeing past classes to accommodate children being put under pressure to produce results for the school.  Some children will take the experience in their stride and others will feel pressured to perform, to the point where ‘tests making children physically sick’.

So who is there for the children when they need to seek support? Who is picking up their pieces?  Have children got time to write their notes for the worry box, and who is picking up the pieces of the staff? Will they even have time to think about looking in there?  The worry box is probably the last thing that will be on the teachers mind, unless they are filling it with their own thoughts!  

There needs to be something more for children, something immediate and forward thinking giving them the opportunity to access tips and coping mechanisms when they need it.  We can’t allow children to continue along the same road of pressure not making changes but expecting different results.  At The Worrinots we believe it is time to be forward thinking in supporting children through such crucial times in their schooling, help them stay focused and use digital solutions to help children make this transition a more manageable process.