Labour's former shadow schools minister has become the latest figure to call for the abolition of Sats, saying the case has been made “all the more powerful” this year by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Margaret Greenwood, a former teacher who resigned from the shadow cabinet earlier this month over the so-called “spy cops” law, said “it cannot be right” to run Sats amid wide disparities in the level of disruption that schools and pupils have experienced since March.
She said: “Many children will have experienced the psychological trauma of bereavement and many, too, will be living in households that are struggling financially, with all the stress that that brings to everyone involved.
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“For the government to even contemplate holding Sats in these circumstances shows a detachment from the realities of children's lives.
Coronavirus: Call to halt Sats
“Moreover, Sats are, of course, about measuring schools against each other. How can it be right to go ahead with them when there will have been marked disparities between the amount of school-based learning children will have engaged in?
“Across the country, pupils are being sent home to self-isolate as outbreaks occur. The latest government statistics show that more than 400,000 children in England were off school on 15 October for coronavirus-related reasons. As of that date, at least 22 state-funded primary schools were closed altogether.
“It cannot, therefore, be right to put children and schools through Sats when there will be wide disparities in the levels of disruption that they will have experienced.”
The NEU teaching union passed a motion at its online conference earlier this month agreeing that Sats should not take place next year because the disruption caused by Covid-19 disruption will make it impossible for the results to be meaningful.
And at the NAHT school leaders' union's online conference, headteachers also voted to scrap "nonsensical" 2021 Sats after hearing how they would be “harmful to the mental health of pupils and would inhibit their progress”.
Ms Greenwood added: “Headteachers have told me of their fears that, should the associated performance tables go ahead this year, this will only add pressure to an already stretched workforce; they are concerned that a lot of school leaders will go under as a result.
"They have told me that their top priority in welcoming children back to school is to settle them back into classroom-based learning and re-establish the routines and relationships that are so important for any child.
“This is absolutely right, not least because wellbeing is a precondition for learning. Children will not reach their full potential if their wellbeing is not supported.
A DfE spokesperson said: “We are planning for statutory primary assessments to take place in summer 2021. They enable teachers to track pupils’ progress, and will help further target support to those that need it most as a result of the pandemic.
“We have launched a £1 billion Covid catch up package to directly tackle the impact of lost teaching time, which headteachers and school leaders have the flexibility to decide how to spend in the best interests of their students.”