Commenting on the Department for Education’s presentation of results, published today, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“Today’s results do not of course address the damage that the SATs-based system of assessment is doing to our primary schools. But even in the limited form presented by the DfE, they give cause for concern.

“They tell a story about the personal costs of failure, about continuing inequality and about unnecessary and unsuccessful experiment.

“Failure. The government claims that the purpose of SATs is to make schools accountable, yet the impact of SATs is felt by individual children. Over a third of pupils (35%) did not reach the expected standard in all of reading, writing and maths (combined) in 2019. These are the children who will go to secondary school not having met the expected standard (officially labelled ‘NS’).

“Inequality. In 2019, 49% of disadvantaged pupils did not reach the expected standard in all of reading, writing and maths compared. Among pupils outside the ‘disadvantaged’ category, the figure was 29%. 5% of disadvantaged pupils reached the higher standard, compared with 13% of all other pupils. 

“Unsuccessful experiment. The DfE has invested millions of pounds, and far too much of teachers’ time, in the phonics check, which was supposed to raise standards of reading. Yet while children’s scores in the phonics check have risen, reading standards as measured in the SATs have fallen.  Likewise, for all the claims that the government makes about the success of academies and free schools, they are actually outperformed in terms of SATs results by local authority primary schools.

“Today’s report, however much it is spun by government, will do nothing to halt the growing demand to abolish the SATs-based system, and replace it with one which support’s pupils’ learning, and does more to trust teachers’ professional judgment.”