An open letter to Nicky Morgan from Year Six

Dear Nicky Morgan,

We- the Year Six pupils of Andoversford Primary School- are writing to your department regarding this year’s SATS reading test, which was incredibly long and stressful for many children, as well as using texts that were difficult and uninspiring.

Firstly, we are deeply disappointed by the poor quality of the texts included in this year’s SATS Reading test. As Year Six pupils, we are expected to learn and demonstrate the skills that your department have set us. However, we do not feel that the reading test reflected these high standards.

We have the following suggestions to assist your department in improving the quality of text included in the SATS Reading paper:

* In the first story, most sentences began with ‘the’ or a pronoun. We are expected to open our sentences with something more interesting, such as a fronted adverbial. The use of these openers made it incredibly boring to read!

* Throughout the three texts, there was limited complex punctuation. Year Sixes are now expected to use: colons, semi-colons, ellipsis, brackets and hyphens (to name just a few examples). Across the three texts, not a single semi-colon, colon or ellipsis was used, and only one set of brackets. If we did this, your department would see it as unacceptable; we feel that these texts do not set us a good example, which we think isn’t fair.

* The subject of the third text was already especially dull, but in addition the layout was appalling and was a nuisance to read. We were amazed that there was not a single sub-heading! Without these- or other ways of guiding the reader such as bullet points, arrows or numbers- it was almost impossible to find any specific facts or information!

* Our final criticism is the confusing and old-fashioned language that your department used. We were in ‘bewilderment’ at some of the words used in the text, as well as in the questions. We came up with a list of over twenty words which we were unfamiliar with. The worst of these were: rehabilitate, sedately, parched, skittishly and heavenwards. We’re sure that not many adults use these in their everyday conversations! We are also positive that it was not only us who found this confusing; this would have made the questions very difficult to answer for many children around the country. Is this really fair?

We have since heard that this reading test would be more appropriate for fifteen-year-olds than children of our age! Therefore it’s no surprise that so many children around the country felt down-heartened and distressed at the difficulty of the questions and shortage of time in which to answer them (only 20% of us actually managed to complete the whole paper). We’re sure your department would agree that it was upsetting to hear of so many children who were broken-hearted when they attempted to complete this test.

Luckily, we were not stressed or upset during this paper, because our outstanding teacher has always told us to be calm and believe in ourselves. She also didn’t put pressure on us to work night and day on revision, and helped us to realise that trying our hardest would be enough. However, tears rolled down the cheeks of many other children around the country after this traumatic test. These children were not as lucky as us and have worried about these tests for many, many months. We have all been working incredibly hard this year, which unfortunately will not be reflected in our results after this tricky test!

So, on behalf of the 600,000 Year Six children who had to suffer this stressful test, we thought that it is important that your department understands how much effort we put into preparing for our tests and how unfairly we feel that we have been treated.  To realise that however hard we tried, we could not achieve our goal is simply unfair and makes all our hard work seem pointless. After this harsh test, we felt our self-belief melting away. Although we know that it doesn’t matter how well we have done as long as we have done our best, we can assure your department that many children around the country will be dreading receiving their final results; who could possibly believe that it is acceptable to make children feel this way?

We hope your department takes our advice seriously so next year’s Year Sixes will not have to suffer in the same way that we did. We would be more than happy to offer further advice about how to make SATs fairer and more age-appropriate if your department would like us to.

Yours sincerely,

The Year Six pupils of Andoversford Primary School

17 responses on An open letter to Nicky Morgan from Year Six

  1. Well done for taking the time to write this! Your thoughts should be heard. Education needs to be redesigned from the bottom upwards! Best luck to you all!

  2. What a wonderful heart-felt letter! (Not sure if that is an appropriate use of an exclamation mark.) Your teacher must be very proud of you and has done a great job of teaching an inspiring group of young adults. You all have bright futures ahead of you. Hopefully some of you may become politicians so that you can ensure this doesn’t happen again. Thank you for writing so eloquently.

  3. Spot on. My year 6 class in Swindon could not have put it better themselves. Well done Andoversford. Your writing definitely meets- if not exceeds- the national requirement!

    Keep up the fantastic work!

  4. A great letter. Maybe your teacher will show you something I wrote which showed you were quite right about how hard many of the words were.

  5. What an excellent and constructive letter, I really hope Nicky Morgan and the Government take notice of your concerns and your helpful comments for next year on the structure and content of the tests.
    I wish you all well in your future schools and well done to the teachers too!

    1. We only sent it to her on Friday, so not yet- it says on the DfE website that we should get a reply within 15 days so fingers crossed!

      1. Dear Squirrel Class – I used to work in Nicky Morgan’s department and I have a small suggestion to make about your excellent letter. Even though you have addressed it, absolutely correctly, to the Secretary of State herself, she will not read it unless it comes from an MP. Instead, you will get a reply from a civil servant to whom the job of responding to letters has been delegated. I know this because I used to write them.
        You might want to do a little bit of an extra project and find out from the website of the House of Commons who your local MP is and send them a copy of your letter, requesting that they forward it to Nicky Morgan for her response. Then the Secretary of State, or at least Nick Gibb, the Education Minister, will have to read your letter and sign a response to you, via your MP.
        Good luck – your thoughts deserve to be read and responded to with the same amount of serious thought that you put into them.

  6. Well said.
    Also just to mention children who struggle with literacy were still forced to sit this test.
    My children 1 yr6 1 yr2 were groomed all year for these tests. Monday yr2 had to do maths all day in preparation of test the next day

  7. Congratulations to all who had a hand in the writing of this letter! It echoes the sentiments of most Year 6s and their teachers……very little real care and foresight went into the choosing of this year’s texts….totally inappropriate! I’d love to see your reply, but more than that, I’d love to see if your excellent letter will have the desired impact on our Department of Education. Good luck to all!

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