Less than a fifth of parents believe Sats results are a fair way to judge schools – and a majority favour happiness over all else in school, new data suggests.
A survey by YouGov, carried out on behalf of campaign group More Than A Score, shows that just one in six (16 per cent) of parents think schools should be judged on their Sats test results and one in four (25 per cent) take Sats performance into account when choosing where to send their child.
The data firm surveyed more than 2,000 parents of children aged 3 to 13 in state primary education.
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When asked how best to measure primary school performance, the majority of parents (63 per cent) said "how happy children are at school".
An equal proportion said they would prioritise "how well children progress in a variety of different subjects", while 61 per cent opted for "teaching that inspires a love of learning".
The least popular options were "standardised government tests taken by children under exam conditions", which were considered important by just 12 per cent of parents, and "how well children perform in tests in English and maths only" (11 per cent).
Sats: Children 'under too much pressure'
And when asked which factors would influence their choice of school, the largest proportion of parents (77 per cent) said “teachers that care about their pupils and inspire them to learn”.
Just 25 per cent said they would be swayed by Sats results, and even fewer – 23 per cent – said they would factor league tables into their choice of school.
Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of parents (73 per cent) said they thought their children were under too much pressure from government testing, and 61 per cent agreed that there was too much standardised assessment in primary schools.
Just 4 per cent of parents were aware that children are tested in five out of seven primary years (including Reception).
Alice Bradbury, from the UCL Institute of Education, wrote in a forward to the report: "If parents are not using [test results] to choose a school, then the underlying premise of parents as consumers in a market-based system is failing.
"Information is being created which parents do not appear to trust or need when choosing a school; while the process of producing these data is seen as damaging to children’s wellbeing by those who know them best."
'Damaging' pupils' wellbeing
Sara Tomlinson, from More Than A Score, said: "It is now clear that parents' priorities are not reflected in government policy. It's time to overhaul a system which lets children down and works against their chances of experiencing high-quality learning.
"The government may argue that 'standards' are improving but this claim is based on narrow tests taken under exam conditions. A recent international study (Pisa 2018) demonstrated that the drive towards high-pressure testing has come at a serious cost: children in England were found to have among the lowest levels of life satisfaction.
"Parents want to be reassured about the quality of their children's education. They want a broad curriculum and inspiring teaching. They do not want their children to be subjected to unnecessary testing purely for the purposes of gathering data to create league tables.
"We need to ensure that our education system is one that focuses on developing skills in our young people and cultivates a love of learning for life, not simply on cramming them with facts. The government must now listen to those who know children best – educators, experts and, above all, parents."
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Key stage 2 tests have been central to raising standards, helping to ensure children leave primary school with a secure grasp of the fundamentals of reading, writing and mathematics. As part of a broad and balanced curriculum, this helps lay the foundations for success at secondary school and beyond.
“We trust teachers to administer these tests in an appropriate way and so they should not be a source of stress for children. The tests enable teachers to track pupils' progress, helping to make sure they stay on track to fulfil their potential throughout school.”