Spielman: Just talking about Sats can add to pupil anxiety

Ofsted chief warns heads against 'subliminally' ratcheting up pressure on pupils surrounding the tests

John Roberts

Amanda Spielman has warned against adding to pressure on pupils

Ofsted's chief inspector has warned that talking to pupils about Sats tests can make them feel more anxious.

Amanda Spielman is concerned that school leaders can unintentionally “ratchet up the pressure on young people” in the build-up to the tests.

“Good primary schools manage to run key stage tests without children even knowing that they're being tested," she said yesterday on the first day of Sats week. "Seven-year-olds might say: ‘Oh, we did a maths booklet today'. 

“But I was in a primary school not very long ago where I saw something that did concern me, where the head was going around clasping Year 6 pupils on the shoulder and saying: ‘Are you feeling ok about the tests? Is everything going well?’

"And I thought although that is well meaning, is it actually subliminally encouraging children to feel anxious about it?"

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Ms Spielman continued: “Testing happens in every system throughout the world. It only becomes a big deal for young people if people make it so for them. 

“Everybody should think about their behaviour. The mere act of talking about something, somebody other than the classroom teacher talking about it might just help to ratchet things up a bit.”

The chief inspector was speaking as she unveiled the final version of Ofsted's new school inspection framework published today. She suggested the inspectorate's new approach - set to penalise schools which teach to the test at the expense of a broad education - would help to reduce stress on pupils.

"A good education in which children actually achieve in terms of substance, actually learn a lot and enjoy learning in schools where they feel a strong sense of connection to the school with good culture and where there is the kind of culture where behaviour is good – those are things which are good for children," Ms Spielman said.

“This framework has a very strong theme running through it – about what are the things that get every child as far as they can in the most relaxed and pleasant way.”

Earlier this year almost all (98 per cent) of primary heads survey warned that teachers are placed under unnecessary pressure because of Sats.

A YouGov poll for campaign group More than a Score also found that 94 per cent of primary heads felt pupils were put under stress unnecessarily – with 96 per cent concerned about the pressure of KS2 Sats on pupils’ wellbeing.

Last night, More than a Score said: “Like parents, teachers and headteachers, Ofsted has recognised the terrible consequences of the government’s high-pressure testing regime.  

"However, neither Ofsted nor the DfE are countenancing the changes which would transform primary education — getting rid of Sats altogether and ending a system dominated by league tables.

“We believe that schools should be encouraged to develop a rich curriculum, and to avoid a teaching-to-the test culture but the government is determined to continue to use children as data-points as a way to judge schools.”


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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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