Growing numbers of parents, heads, teachers and experts are demanding reform of a system they say is having a negative impact on children’s mental health and education in primary school. This call for change is gathering pace.

Read our briefings bringing together data from all stakeholders and a variety of research bodies.

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Additional research

The SATs Effect

The SATs Effect: Year 6 teachers reveal the “toxic”, “horrible” effects of government tests

Our research with UCL Institute of Education and Teacher Tapp highlights the extent to which the need to achieve good SATs results shapes year 6: they affect what and how teachers teach, they affect teachers, and they affect children themselves.

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Re-defining standards in English Primary Education

To date, standards in primary schools have been measured through two instruments; SATs scores and Ofsted inspection outcomes. Both measures have been critiqued by some in the sector who argue that they have a negative impact on teacher workload and a lack of recognition of pupil demographics (e.g. levels of deprivation or additional educational needs).

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SATs VS Standards - redefining quality in primary schools

Our report SATs vs Standards – Redefining quality in primary schools highlights that parents and school leaders believe SATs results have little to do with high standards.

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Drop SATs For Good

Our report Drop SATs for Good: The Case For Recovery Without High-stakes Assessment was prepared in response to the challenges facing schools following the pandemic.

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Assessment for Children's Learning: A new future for primary education

The findings of the Independent Commission on Assessment in Primary Education.

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High standards, not high stakes

The British Educational Research Association’ Expert Panel on Assessment has published a report outlining an alternative, transformative approach to SATs.

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The use of the Phonics Screening Check in Year 2: The views of Year 2 teachers and headteachers

In the summer of 2020, as part of the government’s arrangements for examinations and testing under COVID-19, all statutory assessments in primary schools were cancelled, including the Phonics Screening Check (PSC) in Year 1. In June 2020, the government announced that the PSC would be moved to the autumn term, and made the reporting of results to the Department of Education (DfE) a statutory requirement (STA, 2020).

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Primary Assessment and COVID

Researchers at the International Literacy Centre, UCL London concluded that all statutory primary assessment should be suspended in the 2020/21 school year.

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Too many tests for no good reason

Our research demonstrates that the majority of parents disagree with the government’s policy of using SATs and other formal tests to judge primary schools. In sharp contrast to the government’s position, parents do not prioritise the data generated by the tests to make decisions about their children’s education and do not believe the current system is a fair way to measure schools.

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Baseline Assessment: Why It Doesn’t Add Up.

We have prepared a dossier bringing together the case against the introduction of baseline assessment with arguments from academics and experts.


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Inappropriate, unhelpful and unnecessary: the headteachers' verdict on Baseline Assessment

This report from Dr Alice Bradbury at UCL Institute of Education demonstrates headteachers’ opposition to reception baseline assessment.

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Pressure, anxiety and collateral damage: the headteachers' verdict on SATs

This report from Dr Alice Bradbury at UCL Institute of Education provides a detailed insight into the negative effects of SATs across the whole school.

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Research into the 2019 pilot of RBA

Dr. Guy Roberts-Holmes, conducted research with teachers into the pilot of the Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA).

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The Phonics Screening Check: An Independent Enquiry into the views of heads, parents and pupils

This independent research by Margaret Clark and Jonathan Glazzard proves that heads, teachers and parents are overwhelmingly opposed to the Year 1 phonics check.

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Exam Factories? The Impact of Accountability Measures on Children and Young People

This independent research was commissioned by the National Union of Teachers and conducted by Professor Merryn Hutchings.

This is a wide ranging research project that incorporates a survey of almost 8,000 teachers, an extensive literature review and quantitative research utilising case studies of both heads and teachers and children. Taken together, this research demonstrates the negative impact on children and young people in England of the current accountability measures in schools.

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The Mismeasurement of Learning

The Mismeasurement of Learning is a collection of short essays presenting the evidence and the arguments around curriculum and assessment in primary education. Brought together by Reclaiming Schools and the NUT, essay authors include John Coe, Pam Jarvis and Guy Roberts-Holmes and Alice Bradbury.

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Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) (2013) Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment, OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education. This report compares the experience of 28 OECD countries, analyses the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches, and offers policy advice on using evaluation and assessment to improve the quality, equity and efficiency of education.

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Assessment, Standards and Quality of Learning in Primary Education

Wynne Harlen’s report provides a critical review of the assessment system in England introduced between 2014 and 2016, in the light of evidence from research and practice in six other countries. It begins with some ground-clearing discussion of the terms used in relation to tests and other forms of pupil assessment. The next two sections concern the purposes of assessment, particularly formative and summative assessment, the uses of summative assessment data for accountability and national monitoring and the impact on curriculum content and pedagogy. Section four describes how assessment for these purposes and uses is conducted in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden and France, concluding with an overview of themes running through these examples. The main points from this analysis are drawn together in the fifth section, providing a critical perspective on the system in England in light of alternative approaches in other systems. Finally some implications for policy and practice are identified.

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Multiple concerns

This report details NAHT members’ response to the multiplication tables check.

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