My son will sit his SATs next week along with his friends. I am so proud and grateful for this because in January 2016 he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia and will continue to be in treatment until 2019. I have watched him as he has maturely and determinedly prepared for the SATs by attending additional classes after school and completing reams of work at home without a fuss.
I know he finds it hard. It breaks my heart as I watch him trying to remember how to answer a maths problem or to apply the concentration that he needs. It breaks my heart to know that when the results come out in July they will not recognise how hard it has been for him and many others because of the personal battles they face. I know he will be ranked and judged against his peers who have been able to attend, focus and engage with education without interference.
When the results come out in July I will explain the following to him:
- Government policy dictates that schools must objectively assess children at the end of each Key Stage to show how much progress you and your friends have made
- The school will be judged on how much progress you and your friends have made
- Your teacher will be judged on how much progress you and your friends have made
- Your next school will be given your SATs results and you and your friends are likely to be given GCSE target grade based on these results
- You and your friends are unlikely to ever be asked what you got in your Year 6 SATs
- Your SATs results will not mention that you have and are fighting cancer
I will also explain to him that because of his bravery and courage he was able to prepare for his SATS despite the huge trauma he has been through in the last 16 months. I will tell him that his results will differ from his friends because:
- he had 6 months off school in Year 5 but attended school whenever he could despite being bloated on steroids, bald through chemotherapy and in constant pain.
- he has endured over 450 days of chemotherapy involving many general anaesthetics, surgical procedures and IV treatments
- he has taken so many medicines that we have lost count but included morphine for pain, anti-sickness and antibiotics
- he has spent long periods of time in hospital separated from his Mum, his Dad, his brother and his sister
- he has been so weak at times he couldn’t even get up the stairs
- he has experienced the significant effects of steroids with changes in mood and increases in appetite
- he has seen, heard and experienced pain, distress and fear which no child should
I will then go on to say that the following is far more important to us than his SATs results:
- You are the most kind, caring and loving boy despite everything you have been through
- You have never once said, “it’s not fair” or questioned “why me?”
- When you were in hospital, you did your very best to try to keep other poorly children happy and entertained
- During the darkest of times you turned cancer on its head and raised thousands of pounds for charity
- You continue to face the daily challenges of being diagnosed with cancer with positivity, humour and humility
- You are an absolute star in our eyes; we couldn’t be more proud
Next week he will stand tall and face the SATs with the determination and positivity that he has faced cancer with. I only wish that he didn’t have to do them, I know I could withdraw him but having been excluded from so many things already because of his diagnosis he wants to be ‘normal’; he wants to do everything that his mates do.
All I want is the government to stand up and recognise that children are not all the same, they are diverse and wonderful. Many children fight daily battles whether medical, social or emotional ones which impact on how they can prepare for the SATs, how they cope and the outcome.
By testing them in this way you are only highlighting their difference not embracing it.