SATs tests are still a shocking failure

Despite intensive test preparation and enormous stress for children and teachers, Key Stage 2 SATs tests for 2018 are a disaster once again.

Figures published today show that only 64% of children passed Reading, Writing and Maths. That means 1 in 3 children will move on to secondary school with a failure notice round their necks.

The pass rate is better than it was in 2016 – the first year in which SATs were based on Michael Gove’s notorious National Curriculum. It rose from 53% in 2016 to 61% in 2017, and has risen again slightly this year to 64%. This was predictable given the outrage at the 2016 tests: even hardened government ministers had to make them appear more palatable. A close look at the Reading test, for example, shows that the tests were made easier in 2017. But few people will be happy with tests that fail so many children.

We won’t have the breakdown of data for different categories of pupils for some months, but it isn’t difficult to extrapolate probable results from the 2017 data and the overall change to 2018. It is safe to expect that this year:

  • 2 out of every 5 boys have been failed
  • 2 out of every 5 August-born children have been failed
  • around half of children ever on free school meals have been failed, and more than half of those currently on free meals.

These figures also intersect, so that nearly 2 out of 3 summer-born boys on free meals are wearing a failure notice.

The collateral damage is enormous. A survey of teachers was published yesterday by the National Education Union (a merger of the NUT and ATL). 9 out of 10 primary school teachers said the SATs system is detrimental to children’s wellbeing, and that it does not benefit children’s learning.

One teacher said: “Pupils at our school have cried, had nightmares and have changed in behaviour due to the pressure on them – and we do our best to shield them from it and not make a huge issue out of the tests.”

Another commented: “We see children in highly anxious states, sometimes vomiting because of pressure. More children displaying signs of poor mental health and we do not put pressure on our children.”

The tests result in curriculum narrowing, and intensive focus on test preparation only makes children who are struggling feel worse. One teacher said: “My class have only done one hour of art each half-term since January.”

One teacher explained: “SEND children are generally ‘written off’ because they won’t ever achieve the standard, and all of the attention goes on the children who will and need to make it. It reinforces to SEND children everything they can’t do instead of the focus being on what they can do and what they are good at… It is painful watching these most vulnerable children made to feel less than the great human beings they are because they are aware that these activities don’t help them to shine.”

It is deeply unethical to allow these tests to continue.

Join the More Than A Score campaign to stop the tests. Form a campaign group in your local area. 


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