Key Stage 1 SATs are no longer mandatory. However, schools must opt out of them. We encourage NEU members to ask their heads to visit the DfE’s website and opt out of the tests via the Primary Assessment Gateway. The deadline to decline the tests for 2024 was November 17th 2023.
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.