SATs preparation 'overtaking children’s lives'

By agency reporter
April 30, 2018

Three in 10 (30 per cent) teachers and headteachers say their school expects children aged six to seven (Year Two) to do SATs revision at home, according to a joint survey by the National Education Union (NEU) and TES. This increases to more than eight in 10 (82 per cent) schools expecting pupils aged 10 to 11 (Year Six) to revise for their SATs at home.

In a survey of 500 teachers and headteachers in England, almost one in 10 (eight per cent) run revision classes after school for Year Two children, and more than half (56 per cent) offer them to pupils in Year Six. A further 29 per cent said that Year 6 pupils are offered SATs revision during lunchtimes, leaving children with even less time to have a break from tests.

More than six in 10 (62 per cent) said their school holds mock key stage one SATs, meaning time is spent preparing for the tests rather than teaching the curriculum. Three-quarters (74 per cent) of teachers and headteachers said they feel that the preparation for SATs in Year 6 squeezes out other parts of the curriculum, and almost a third (32 per cent) feel this is the case in Year Two.

A Year Two teacher from Norfolk said: “It feels like so much time is spent on preparation for SATS tests, and then teacher assessment on top of this takes too much teaching time that the children are entitled too. A broad a varied curriculum? Where? How is this even possible?”

A primary school teacher in Wigan said: “SATs become the main focus in Year Six, which takes precedent over everything else. As teachers, we have to remember SATS are not the priority – our children are.”

Anecdotally, a high number of respondents said that SATs should be scrapped completely, with some saying they “take the fun out of teaching”, “are a total waste of time and undermine, once again, the professionalism of teachers” and “are a nightmare”.

A Key Stage 2 teacher in Wiltshire said: “SATs have and always will be simply a tool to grade schools by. They could be used in a less stressful way to assess pupils for the teacher and teachers only. Instead children are still taught to the tests and the rest of the curriculum goes out the window for months. Scrap them and let teachers get on with what they actually signed up to do!”

Education staff believe that SATs are detrimental to teaching across the curriculum, with 64 per cent believing this to be the case for Year Two and 82 per cent believing it for Year Six.

A key stage one teacher from Bristol said: “All other subjects are given, at best, two hours a week, in order to practise SATs and prepare them to pass the test. Our children know little of the wider curriculum as it is not tested.”

Teachers and heads are also increasingly concerned about the effect of SATs on pupils, with 83 per cent saying that SATs in Year Six have a detrimental effect on pupils’ mental health, and 54 per cent saying SATs in Year Two mean pupils’ mental health suffers.

A reception teacher from Oldham said: “This is a very stressful time of year for children in Years Two and Six – some are reduced to tears by the SATs tests. This is not helping children to love to learn.”

A Year three teacher from Northamptonshire said: “So much curriculum time is given to SATs preparation that both students and teachers suffer with stress.”

Teachers and heads also felt that SATs take an even greater toll on their own mental health, with almost nine in 10 (89 per cent) saying they felt Year Six SATs are detrimental to their own mental health, and 74 per cent felt the same about Year Two SATs.

A Year Two teacher from Hampshire said: “The pressure has increased hugely on children and teachers with the advent of the new curriculum and I have had many sleepless nights with anxieties about my own responsibilities to the children in my class in preparation for SATs and for the children's own well-being.”

Dr Mary Bousted, joint General Secretary of the NEU, said: “SATs, whether at Year Two or Year Six, are damaging to primary education. The Government relentlessly tests children from the age of six, and they are told they are failures if they do not meet required standards. This can impact on their self-esteem, which can carry on throughout their schooling and determine the direction of their adult lives.

“We believe there are better ways of assessing children, and better ways of ensuring school accountability. We will continue to campaign with parents and other educational organisations against the accountability and assessment pressures that lead to the labelling of children.”

* National Education Union


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