Sats: a problem that’s crying out for a solution

13th May 2016 at 00:00

I got up at 6am on Tuesday to set off to prepare my school for the Year 6 grammar, punctuation and spelling test, only to find that it had already been released to markers ( This follows the fiasco of the key stage 1 test being leaked last month (

The incompetence of the Department for Education and all who work for them continues to astound me. My Year 6 children were not in tears because of the reading test. They are made of sterner stuff. But I am nearly in tears at the chaotic destruction of an education system that I’ve spent 25 years trying to strengthen. What happened to accountability? I call on Nicky Morgan and Nick Gibb to resign. They are not fit to run my school, let alone England’s schools.

Jon Barr

Headteacher, Meadowbrook Primary School

Jonathan Simons says teachers should “absorb” the pressure of Sats rather than “passing it on to small children”. (Whispers from Westminster, 6 May). This is all very well, but teachers are expected to produce the goods. And then there is the school’s standing to consider – not to mention league tables. Under such circumstances, it is hardly surprising that children pick up on the pressures.

David Rowlands

Lydbrook, Gloucestershire

Much talk about the desirability, or not, of primary Sats, but little about what they actually test. [“Rewrite this sentence correctly to include verbs.”] Regrettably [not a “fronted adverbial” but a “sentence adverbial”], the key stage 2 English test is but a set of quiz items on contrived, de-contextualised bits and pieces. This has little to do with the pupils’ own use and understanding of language. It is amateurish stuff and at what cost? A friend’s primary pupils have got the measure of it all: “The best way of spotting the subjunctive – pick the weirdest sounding sentence.”

Keith Davidson

Columnist for Teaching English, the journal of the National Association for the Teaching of English

The future of primary assessment

“What should primary assessment look like?” (Feature, 6 May) unfortunately did little to challenge the toxic “audit culture” that is responsible for most of the ills of modern schooling. A system in which predetermined “learning outcomes” drive the pedagogy is catastrophic for creativity and the imagination. Politicians urgently need to learn from alternative approaches, like Steiner Waldorf, which produce wonderfully rounded, intelligent and adaptable young people without the need for this unrelenting, anxiety-driven intrusion into the psyches of our children.

Dr Richard House

Educational consultant, Stroud

Neuroscientist Christina Hinton makes a very valid point. Children are not inanimate objects on a school production line who can have prescribed measures of learning injected into them. The Westminster government keeps bleating about school standards because of knee-jerk, back of the envelope reactions to Pisa rankings, but I’m not convinced that Nicky Morgan has done her homework. Learning of maths and second languages is, and will always, remain more difficult for a proportion of learners to achieve than others, however rigorous and punishing the Sats become.

Howard Gunn

Retired teacher and educationalist, South Wales

United, our voices will be heard

It may well have been political expediency that caused Nicky Morgan to “redefine” the government’s totalitarian academisation mandate. But possibly, just possibly, the decision will give some overdue courage to headteachers, school governors and classroom teachers that, united, they do have the necessary political capital to create an educational, “learner-centred” rather than “score-centred” agenda for education.

Professor Bill Boyle

Director, the Evaluation Business, Tarporley, Cheshire

Deserving learners are underserved

“Vulnerable pupils are being “left in a vacuum” (Insight, 6 May) makes a valuable contribution to the SEND debate. The encroachment of academies and free schools has reduced the central pool of money to buy in specialised services. Many schools do not have the knowledge, skills, experience and highly qualified staff to prioritise services for this deserving group of learners.

L A Parkyn

Independent consultant, St Johns School and College

Facebook users respond to “Sats: pupils in tears after sitting ‘incredibly difficult’ reading test”

“When I was in Year 6 if I was messing about I had the blackboard rubber thrown at my head. Don’t wanna hear how hard a test is.”


“Children have always sat tests at 11, at least now they carry on schooling. In days gone by failing the 11-plus meant no more education. Now that was pressure.”


“My daughter came home in tears saying that she didn’t understand it. I am furious that the DfE want to demotivate young minds instead of inspiring them.”


“Interesting, at my school teachers said they thought the test was reasonable and there had been worse in previous years.”


“I’ve told my son just do your best and if you can’t do it, don’t worry – it is meaningless to him anyway!”


“Maybe if we didn’t expose our kids to the media hype and our worries of the Sats they wouldn’t get so stressed about them.”


From the TES Community forums

Academisation U-turn


I hate the U-turn phrase. If a government changes its mind because it realises it had a bad idea, I think that should be welcomed, not castigated. The decision is welcome. The amount of time it took for them to realise the obvious pitfalls is embarrassing.


I’m glad they’ve changed their minds and can’t help but wonder if Nicky Morgan regrets her “no reverse gear” speech.


They will try to achieve it by other means. However, short-term gain as it is, I’ll take it. No one really believes academies are anything other than an attack on working conditions.


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