Thousands of parents considering Sats boycott

Campaign group says some heads putting data ahead of children's wellbeing

Primary pupils sitting Sats tests

Thousands of parents are preparing to boycott the Sats tests next week.

Parents are concerned that the tests are becoming too stressful and "damaging" for children, says The Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign group.

And it adds that its template letter, which parents can use to inform heads they are withdrawing their children from Sats, has now been downloaded more than 6,000 times.

More than 600,000 10- and 11-year-olds are due to take the tests in reading, maths, and spelling, punctuation and grammar (Spag) next week. Children's writing ability will be also be measured through teacher assessment.

Statutory duty

The Standards and Testing Agency has recently reminded headteachers that they have a statutory duty to ensure that all pupils in their school who are eligible and can sit the tests do so.

But some children may be working below the standard of the test or not able to take them and, according to the government’s guidance on the tests, it is the headteacher who makes the final decision in such cases.

The Let Our Kids Be Kids letter states: “As my child’s headteacher, I understand that you have a duty of care for my child. I urge you to understand my desire to put the wellbeing of children ahead of school data.”

The letter then gives parents the option of two paragraphs: either asking headteachers for a meeting to discuss the possibility of withdrawing their child, or saying that they will be withdrawing their child.

Fighting the system

“There's genuine confusion amongst parents,” a spokesperson for Let Our Kids Be Kids said. “Some parents are being encouraged to boycott Sats by their heads, who feel it is the only way they can fight the system they describe as immoral, pointless and damaging. 

“However some parents are being told to bring sick children to the tests. There's a consensus growing that some members of the profession are putting data ahead of wellbeing." 

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT heads' union, said: “The assessment and accountability regime in primary schools is not working for parents, schools or children at the moment, but we have made decent progress and there is more to come. The government is scrapping key stage 1 Sats thanks to some sensible persuasion from us.

“School leaders share many of the concerns that parents have about Sats. But we’re making progress by working collaboratively with the DfE to look at all aspects of assessment, from primary all the way through to secondary.

“Our members have a statutory duty to make sure all pupils in their schools who are eligible and can sit the key stage 1 or key stage 2 national curriculum tests do so. If parents want their children to be withdrawn from the tests, they should discuss their concerns with the school in the first instance.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "“We are clear that any child that has an authorised absence from their headteacher, including being ill or in hospital, would not be expected to take their key stage 2 tests according to the published timetable.”

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes