29/07/2013 09:04 BST | Updated 23/09/2013 06:12 BST

'Secondary School Ready' Isn't Just About SATs

When I was 10 years old, someone came into my life and changed me. She was a young teacher, her name was Tania Oldman, and she was special.

I attended the local, not-very-good primary school and was happy there, at least socially. This was years before a national curriculum and Sats and, although I had fun, I remember that I was sometimes bored in class and certainly never pushed very much. Mrs Oldman arrived when I was in my final year and she changed that.

She was what pupils (and parents) dream of: a teacher who was engaged, keen for all her students to achieve to their best of their ability (whatever that might be) and determined to make sure that all of them, whatever their background, knew how to behave.

I worked extremely hard for Mrs Oldman, and was determined to win her praise. I had always done well at school without trying too hard, but now my teacher's opinion mattered to me, as it did to the whole class. Here was someone who believed in us and we wanted to show her that she was right to do so.

I never forgot Mrs Oldman, not the project we did on New Zealand, her home country. It is a place I have wanted to visit ever since.


My daughter is now 11 years old and has just finished her final year of primary school. She spent five years at one (state) school where she was not particularly happy, and certainly not motivated. Then in Year 5, the local, extremely-difficult-to-get-into state school telephoned to offer us a place. Our daughter had been on the waiting list since Year 1.

She moved schools and I am amazed to see how it has changed her. She was always a mature and independent child, but now she is confident and happy, and over the last two years, she finally felt challenged academically too.

Lucky Jessica: she has had two Mrs Oldmans. She has had two teachers who felt that the children in their classes were worth something; that all had skills and talents which were worth developing and that every pupil should leave their primary school with self-confidence and a sense of self-worth.

My daughter started the school with her confidence low. Her Year 5 teacher noted that although she was very capable, she rarely took on a leadership role. She encouraged her to do so and this year my daughter's report commended her for leadership. What more could a parent ask?

Both teachers nurtured their classes, and like Mrs Oldman did with me, they pushed the children to do their best, not to vie with each other, but to want to achieve their utmost. It's not been about showing off, but about showing yourself what you are capable of.

When the government talks about children being "secondary school ready" they mean one thing, usually based on Sats results or other data. They would be delighted with my daughter and her level 6s, but I am more delighted with the less easily-measured things which my daughter has taken from her school. Thank you to Ms Ashraf and Ms Hedley for showing me how much they matter too.