SATs tests set to be scrapped for seven-year-olds in England

The controversial tests may be scrapped in new government plans. Image: Wiki Commons (Chevre)

SATs, the tests taken by six and seven-year-olds in England, may be scrapped under new government plans.

The tests, which measure children’s capabilities in English and maths, would no longer be statutory.

The Department of Education has proposed replacing the formal tests taken in year two with a teacher driven assessment when children first start school.

Any new forms of assessment wouldn’t be implemented before the 2019-2020 academic year.

Education Secretary Justine Greening has made a statement regarding the possible changes:

The government has reformed the primary school system to make sure children can master the basics of literacy and numeracy so they get the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in later life. Now we want to build on that by developing a stable assessment system that helps children learn, while freeing up teachers to do what they do best – supporting children to fulfil their potential.

Teaching Unions have welcomed the proposals and invitation for consultation.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said:

The possibility of ending Key Stage 1 SATs is good news. This creates the time and space in a pupil’s primary years for teachers to focus on teaching rather than on high-stakes assessment.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) praised the consultation as ‘recognition our children deserve something better.’

However, their General Secretary, Kevin Courtney, was disappointed with the delay before any changes can take place, saying: ‘Ms Greening has been listening – but only partially.’

It is not only the Unions that are happy; the news is likely to be well received by many teachers and parents alike.

SATs have been a contentious issue within education for a while.

They were significantly changed in 2016, through an initiative introduced by former Education Secretary Michael Gove, and became considerably more challenging.

The changes were roundly criticised for creating unnecessary stress on the young children taking them.

Many parents took their children out of school for the day in May last year to protest against the pressure being put on children.

Victoria, a year 2 teacher working in Brighton, is ‘very pleased’ at the proposed changes to SATs.

I think they (SATs) are really hard. As much as we dress them up and call them challenge booklets and we act like detectives to solve problems the children still know that ultimately they are being judged.

She also questions the benefit for either the children’s education or as a method of judging a schools progress:

At 6 and 7 years old there is absolutely no need for them to be sitting in silence and working independently on test papers. I think that teachers should be trusted to assess their children.

The Department of Education hopes that these reforms will ‘reduce the burden’ on both teachers and pupils.

Victoria isn’t convinced of how successful the changes will be to reducing her workload but is encouraged by a return to teacher assessment.

Well I’m a little bit concerned that the government will find a way to beat us with a bigger stick instead of using SATs papers. However, if it marks a return to teacher assessment, then I think it will improve my workload and it will provide a nicer more relaxed atmosphere for summer term for the 6 and 7-year-old children.

The issue of teachers’ workload is a pertinent one.

Almost a third of newly qualified teachers leave the profession within five years of starting their careers, according to government figures.

Excessive workload, assessments and constant changes in educational policy have been cited as major forces in causing the exodus from the profession.

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These factors also result in teachers overworking, with many working a 60-hour week – 12 hours above the limit set by the European working time directive.

Their exhaustive schedules have resulted in the teachers’ union NASUWT raising concerns over the mental health of many teachers.

A NASUWT survey in 2016, found that one in ten teachers say they have been prescribed anti-depressant drugs to cope with the pressure of their jobs.

It is a worrying trend, but what exactly is causing teachers to want to move on so quickly and in such great numbers? Jack F Jewers has looked into the situation.

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