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Sats pressure in primaries is too much, say parents

Polls shows almost half of children are stressed by primary school tests

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Polls shows almost half of children are stressed by primary school tests

Almost two-thirds of parents say children are under too much pressure from primary school tests, a new poll has found.

The YouGov survey for campaign group More Than A Score found that 63 per cent of parents of 7- to 14-year-olds felt children were under too much pressure – with nearly half (48 per cent) saying their child has been anxious about taking Sats.

And a separate poll for cereal company Kellogg's found that 40 per cent of pupils said their biggest worry about the tests was letting their parents down. More than one in five (22 per cent) children said Sats pressure meant they no longer enjoyed learning.

More than 600,000 10- and 11-year-olds will take the Sats tests in reading, maths and spelling, punctuation and grammar (Spag) this week.

And a further 600,000 six- and seven-year-olds will be tested on maths and reading during May.

Impact of Sats

New research by YouGov for campaign group More Than A Score looked at the impact of Sats on the wellbeing of children and their education.

The poll of 596 parents of children aged 7-14 found:

  • 63 per cent said there was too much test pressure
  • 62 per of parents said primary school children go through too much testing
  • 40 per cent are concerned enough to support changes to the Sats tests, with only 13 per cent happy with the status quo

Madeleine Holt, spokesperson for More Than A Score, a coalition of parents, teachers, heads and education experts, said the group wants to see Sats scrapped and an independent review of primary school assessments.

“The polling confirms what parents have been telling us for years: Sats are damaging and pointless,” she said.

“Now we see even six- and seven-year-olds worrying about tests. Surely learning is about more than getting a perfect score? Children need a broad and rich curriculum that encourages them to be excited about learning, not terrified of failing at such a young age.

“That's why we are calling for the government to scrap Sats and commission an independent and expert review to produce recommendations for primary school assessments that are fit for purpose.”  

Becky, a teacher and parent of a child in Year 6, told More than a Score: “My daughter’s school manages Sats quite well in terms of trying not to ‘hype’ it up. This does not, unfortunately, mean that many of the children are not feeling incredibly anxious about it especially with the amount of homework they are being given to ‘prepare themselves for Sats’."

Under pressure

The poll for Kellogg’s found that 45 per cent of children who took their key stage 2 Sats last year felt anxious about the Sats – with nearly a quarter admitting they couldn’t concentrate on their work because they felt so under pressure.

The poll of 1,005 pupils, carried out by Ginger Comms, also found that 10 per cent of children didn’t eat most mornings during the test week, adding that some pupils instead turned to energy drinks or coffee (4 per cent) or even cigarettes (2 per cent). Kellogg’s together with food redistribution charity FareShare will be donating 500,000 free breakfasts to schools during Sats week.

The findings come after a joint poll by Tes and the NEU teaching union earlier this term found that 62 per cent of primary schools were holding mock key stage 1 Sats, with this rising to 91 per cent of schools holding mocks for the key stage 2 Sats.

The results of the key stage 2 Sats tests are published and used by Ofsted and the Department for Education to judge how schools are performing. A school that does not meet the minimum floor standard can be forced to academise or have its academy sponsor changed. Recently, education secretary Damian Hinds said that this may change – so that schools are not forced to academise on data alone.

There has been increasing concern about the pressure on pupils and teachers to do well, with thousands of parents downloading a “withdrawal letter”, which informs heads that they are considering not letting their child sit the tests.

'Shared concerns'

But the NAHT heads' union has issued a plea to “keep Sats in perspective”.

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the NAHT, said: “This is an important time, but it is also important to keep this week in perspective. As we have said many times at NAHT, test data is only part of the picture when judging a school’s effectiveness or a pupil’s success.

“NAHT would like to see less testing in primary schools overall, leaving more time and space for a broad range of subjects and activities in the school day so that children’s opportunities are not limited.

“School leaders share many of the concerns that parents have about Sats. Children have many interests and talents ranging from music to sports. They have acquired many life skills that will stand them in good stead for the future. They are not just numbers on a page.

“If parents are concerned about how their children are feeling about Sats, it is a good idea to find out exactly what is bothering them the most and then seek advice from the school.”

Nick Gibb, school standards minister, said: "The key stage 2 tests play a vital role in ensuring that children have been taught, and have acquired a sound knowledge of, the fundamentals of reading, writing and mathematics.

"We trust schools not to put undue pressure on pupils when administering these assessments, and certainly not at the expense of their wellbeing.

“I wish pupils all the very best as they prepare to sit the key stage 2 tests and I look forward to celebrating their success in the summer.”

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