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Exclusive: Sats take toll on teachers’ mental health

Survey finds teachers feel Sats stress more than pupils

teacher stress sats

Survey finds teachers feel Sats stress more than pupils

Almost three-quarters of teachers (74 per cent) say the Year 2 test regime is detrimental to teachers' mental health, a new survey has found.

And the proportion rises to nine in 10 teachers (89 per cent) for Year 6 Sats, according to a joint Tes and NEU teaching union survey, which asked 500 teachers about the impact of the primary testing regime.

The effect of the tests on pupils is also concerning teachers.

More than half (54 per cent) feel the testing regime in Year 2 is detrimental to pupils' mental health, and 83 per cent say the same about Year 6 Sats.

Other adverse aspects of the testing regime highlighted in the Tes/NEU survey show that almost three-quarters of teacher respondents say that the Year 6 curriculum is being squeezed “a lot” to allow extra Sats practice, and 32 per cent say the same is happening in Year 2.

And some experts believe this could help explain the decline in teacher mental health.

Brian Apter, chair of the division of educational and child psychologists at the British Psychological Society said: "Key stage 1 Sats are terribly unpopular with teachers.

"The more narrowing of the curriculum occurs and the more teachers feel compelled to teach to Sats, the more teachers will be unhappy.

“Being able to move the curriculum around according to the youngsters you are teaching is really important."

Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the NEU (ATL branch), said the pressure of Sats was leading to teachers leaving.

"People don’t want to teach in those two year groups [Year 2 and Year 6] because they are the really stressful ones," she said.

“They feel they are not doing a good job by their pupils because they are having to focus on literacy and maths, which are important, but are not everything. 

“So they feel they are letting the kids down by doing this stuff they don’t feel they should be doing. It just grinds you down. And that’s why people leave.” 

A DfE spokesperson said: “We know most teachers administer tests in a way that does not put undue pressure on pupils at any level.

"These assessments are a fundamental part of children’s education but they have no long-term effect on children. As such, they should absolutely not be made to feel any stress or anxiety over them.”

This is an edited article from the 27 April edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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