Young teacher with primary school children

KS1 and KS2 SATs

SATs are used to hold schools to account, at the cost of children and staff wellbeing.


Key Stage 1 SATs are no longer mandatory. 

Schools were able to opt-out of receiving test papers in late 2023. Whilst many schools will still receive papers, the DfE will not monitor or moderate the completion of these optional test papers. Therefore, receipt of the papers does not mean schools must complete them.




In Year 6, pupils take 6 papers in Reading, Maths and grammar, punctuation and spelling. The results from these are used to create league tables and compare schools. However, research commissioned by More Than A Score showed that only one in four parents said they looked at SATs results when choosing a school for their child. Results from SATs tests are not routinely used by secondary schools, who perform their own informal on-entry assessments.


Because of the high-stakes nature of the tests, many Year 6 pupils spend months cramming for SATs. Pressure on teachers and children is extreme and school staff have very little time to deliver interesting, varied lessons, as they feel forced to "teach to the test", focusing largely on English and maths. Even after all this, in most years around one third of children "fail" their SATs, in the sense that they do not achieve the 'expected standard' in all subjects – this rose to 41 per cent in 2022.

These stakes have been raised even higher by the government's new 'aspiration' that by 2030, 90 per cent of 11-year-olds will be working at 'expected standard'. This will ratchet up the pressure on pupil and educators and further narrow the curriculum. Its implications for SEND pupils, who will be exposed to an inappropriate curriculum and a test-focused pedagogy, have not been considered. At a point when most educators have rejected the emphasis on SATS as a tool to improve standards, the new aspiration is a backward step.

The same research from More Than A Score found three quarters of parents believed taking SATs would add to their child's stress, while only 16% thought it was fair to use SATs and other formal tests to measure a school. In a poll of pupils, 40% of children in Year 5 were already worried about taking their SATs the following year.

Small child doing homework with a pencil

Primary and early years assessment

There is now more primary and early years assessment than ever. English children are among the most tested in the world.

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