Sats and all primary tests will go ahead in 2021

KS1 and KS2 Sats, phonics and multiplication tests to take place next year, DfE confirms, despite calls for cancellation

Amy Gibbons

Written test

Sats tests will go ahead as planned next year, despite calls for them to be cancelled, the government has said.

And other statutory primary assessments, including the phonics check and multiplication tables check, will also take place in 2020-21, according to new Department for Education (DfE) guidance.

The news comes the day after a YouGov survey revealed the majority of parents want next year's Sats to be cancelled.

Related: Heads call for 'urgent' review of 2021 Sats

Survey: Most parents 'want next year's Sats tests cancelled'

Coronavirus: Reception baseline assessment postponed in DfE U-turn

And last week, heads called for an urgent review of the tests due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus crisis.

The DfE guidance states: "We recognise that pupils will have missed a critical period of their education due to lockdown in the 2019 to 2020 academic year. It is vital that we know the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) on this cohort of pupils nationally, and can give support to schools that need it the most.

"We are, therefore, planning on the basis that statutory primary assessments will take place in summer 2021. The early years foundation stage profile, and all existing statutory key stage 1 and 2 assessments, should return in 2020 to 2021 in accordance with their usual timetables."

This includes:

  • The phonics screening check.
  • KS1 tests and teacher assessment.
  • The Year 4 multiplication tables check.
  • KS2 tests and teacher assessment.
  • Statutory trialling.

The guidance also reveals that the DfE has not suspended peformance tables for the 2020-21 academic year – to the disappointment of headteachers.

The department uses the guidance to reiterate suspension of league tables for the 2019-2020 academic year, but makes no such promise for next year.

"Performance tables are suspended for the 2019 to 2020 academic year, and no school or college will be judged on data based on exams and assessments from 2020," it says.

"Until the new data release is available, all those working with schools, including Ofsted and DfE regional teams, should refer to the 2019 data. The Department for Education will continue to use 2019 data as a starting point for any conversation about support for schools with Ofsted judgements below good."

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said heads would have preferred next year's Sats to be optional.

However, she said they were more concerned that the tests might be used to inform league tables.

"The problem is not so much holding KS1 and KS2 tests, although we would have preferred that to be optional, but the possibility that they might be used to generate school performance tables," she said. 

"This would be wholly inappropriate, meaningless and counterproductive following so much disruption, and we are seeking a commitment from the government to suspend performance tables next year.

"The tests themselves might be useful for schools in terms of their own monitoring and to support transition to secondary education, and we would have liked to see schools given flexibility over whether to use these assessments."

While Sats, phonics and multiplication checks will go ahead as planned, the guidance confirms that the statutory introduction of the Reception baseline assessment has been postponed to 2021.

The decision to push forward September's start by a year came only two months after the DfE rebuffed early years campaigners' calls for the baseline to be delayed "by at least a year", as learning had been "so disrupted" by the coronavirus.

At the time the DfE said it would push on and go ahead as planned in September, despite concern that this would "make life impossible for everybody".

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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