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'Sats are inhumane – scrap them now'

Testing in primary is leading to an epidemic in mental health problems. Sats must be abolished urgently, argues one celebrated head

Making parents feel welcome in school is a key part of educational success, writes Colin Harris

Testing in primary is leading to an epidemic in mental health problems. Sats must be abolished urgently, argues one celebrated head

Pupils’ wellbeing should and must be central to the work of every single teacher in the country. It’s obvious, right?

And yet every single year we subject the nation’s 10- and 11-year-olds to the debilitating test regime known as key stage 2 Sats.

Boy does this have an impact on their wellbeing. Research study after survey after research study highlights the negative consequences and there are more than a few. Let’s list a few: stress, anxiety, panic attacks, self-harm, sleeplessness.

For the past few months, many, many pupils would have been subjected to a regime of near-endless revision exercises. They would have had a reduced curriculum that served up a diet focused exclusively on English and maths.

Many pupils will also have been subject to the obligatory “booster groups”.

Is it any wonder that more than 80 per cent of our school leaders recognise that Sats lead to an increase in the mental health issues of our pupils.

What's it all for? League tables

To what end? League tables, of course. But other than that, secondaries use little of the data, and often question the validity of the scores altogether as they are used to judge them in their Progress 8 scores five years down the line.

Even if the children do well, the tests are made harder the following year instead of expressing congratulations to both the children and their teachers.

This is simply not humane.

Thankfully, some politicians are beginning to recognise the negative effect of these outdated tests. Last year’s Commons Education Select Committee report on testing warned of the "high-stakes testing regime which damages teaching and learning in primary schools".

The committee's chair at the time, Neil Carmichael, said: "It is right that schools are held to account for their performance, but the government should act to lower the stakes and help teachers to deliver a broad, balanced and fulfilling curriculum for primary school children."

My honest, simple question is this: if you really want a “broad, balanced and fulfilling curriculum”, then why not go one step further? Scrap Sats, now.

Colin Harris has led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were "outstanding" across all categories

To read more of Colin's articles, visit his back catalogue


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