Parents notice the stress children undergo when taking tests, but pupils tend to accept them as a normal part of school life. They see tests as symbols for the competition with each other that is routine. Children can interpret all work as geared towards tests so that they talk not so much about the curriculum as about the pace of work and its demands.
"You need good grades in them to get what you want."
"I feel terrible when I'm not the best."
"I'm not a fast learner and everything I learn, sometimes it goes out of my head."
Sats symbolise the competition of school, the comparison with others.
"I mean I get more wrong than I do right. I'm worse than some of them and better than others."
"I feel I haven't learned much. They've got stuff right and I've got stuff wrong and feel like I've not learned much and I haven't been paying attention."
"Sad, because they think like 'we're the best'. They say like 'I know more things than you' and stuff like that."
"Unhappy, because at my old school I used to be the first. But now I'm not.
I'm nearly, just about, the last. 'Cos I'm not very good at stuff."
"I hope I'm nearer the first one. I think I'm going to be really embarrassed."
Cedric Cullingford is professor of education at Huddersfield university