Senior teachers across England are calling on the government to scrap SATs for Key Stage 2 students and look at alternative methods of testing 10 and 11 year olds.
A survey of 230 senior primary school teachers by YouGov for the campaign group More Than A Score, found that 96% of those questioned were concerned over the well-being of their pupils due to high pressure from tests.
And even more, 98%, thought that teachers are put under too much pressure to meet the teaching requirements and 93% think SATs narrow the curriculum, with English and Maths prioritised to the detriment of music, art, science and drama.
More Than A Score describes itself on its website as a “growing coalition of parents, teachers, heads and education experts, working together to call for change in the government’s over-testing regime”.
In May this year, hundreds of thousands of year six pupils will be taking their SATs, but already many are finding the preparation tough.
Speaking to Sky News one pupil from Carden Primary School in Brighton, said: “I’m a little bit anxious, there’s going to be a lot of tests and they’re going to be quite hard probably.”
Another student said: “The build up to SATs is quite nerve-wracking and I’m quite nervous, but once it’s done it’s done.”
Year six SATs are the most high-profile tests currently taken by primary school children and for many years the debate about their effectiveness has continued. Now many school leaders are hoping the government will take some action.
Helen Longton-Howarth, head teacher at Carden Primary, said: “The stress is like that for all of us, we try very much to share responsibility, we’re all responsible for children’s progress and attainment in primary school.
“But reality is teachers in year six and head teachers are very accountable for progress and attainment in classes and in our schools and there can be very dire consequences for us if we don’t achieve at the level we’re expected to.”
She added: “I think SATs are a very narrow one size fits all measure of measuring children’s’ attainment at the end of KS2.
“I think they are very narrow as they only look at core subjects – reading writing and mathematics – they don’t judge the breadth of the curriculum we give children at primary school – they’re one small snapshot of the bigger picture and of children’s attainment by the time they leave primary school.”
Despite the strength of feeling suggested by the survey, not all teaching professionals agree that SATS are bad for primary school children.
Former head teacher Mark Lehain campaigns for exams in schools. He believes the pressure on children comes from teachers.
He said: “As professionals, we shouldn’t let the test drive what we teach the kids.
“Teachers feel like they teach the test, but that’s not the case – you have more than enough time to teach a broad and rich curriculum.
“I don’t think they should be blaming the government!”
Standard Attainment Tests or SATs were introduced in 1990 and were designed to hold schools to account for children’s progress.
There has always been an element of controversy surrounding them, but now almost 30 years there seems little enthusiasm for change within the Department for Education.
In a statement, the government said: “The key stage 2 tests ensure that children leave primary school having acquired a secure grasp of the fundamentals of reading, writing and maths, which lay the foundation for success at secondary school and beyond.
“The education secretary has been clear he does not want key stage 2 tests to be a source of stress for either pupils or teachers and we trust teachers to administer these tests in an appropriate way that does not put undue pressure on pupils.
“Accountability is important so that we can continue to drive up standards in our schools.”
:: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 230 senior primary school teachers in England.
Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th January and 4th February 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted by region.