2nd February 2023

New review of research reveals growing concerns about SATs

  •  95% of parents say SATs have a negative impact on their children’s wellbeing, an increase from 44% since 2018[1]
  • The call for change has almost doubled in four years with 76% of parents now demanding reform[2]
  • 1 in 10 year 6 children can’t sleep because of SATs[3]

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: in 2018, 40% of parents wanted to change the system, by 2022 76% were calling for no statutory assessments in primary.4

A new review of recent research by the More Than A Score campaign highlights the ever louder calls for an overhaul of the way primary pupils are assessed and primary schools are measured, bringing together data from all stakeholders and a variety of research bodies.

Wellbeing and Mental Health

In 2022, 95% of parents agreed that SATs have a negative impact on their children’s wellbeing, an increase from 44% in 2018.5 No wonder  The Times Education Commission concluded in July 2022, “overwhelmingly [parents] prioritise wellbeing over academic attainment”.

Accountability

SATs results are used by the government as an indicator of a school performance, yet this research shows that the vast majority of parents (85%) consistently don’t use SATs to pick a school and in fact SATs results are 8th in a list of factors parents use when selecting schools.6

Meanwhile, according to the NAHT, just 8% of heads say that SATs results provide meaningful data about a school’s performance. 7

Curriculum and Pupil Engagement

According to the Times Education Commission (2022), “high stakes assessment has become the tail that wags the dog”. Parents agree: 83% say that SATs do not capture all that their children are capable of8 and 95% of heads say that too much time is spent preparing for them9, presumably at the expense of other rich and varied learning.

The system as a whole

The review of research also contains pointers for policy-makers. In 2018 40% of parents said the assessment and SATs system needed change, a figure that has almost doubled in just four years to 76%10 who believe that reform is needed. Only 8% of parents strongly support government policy on primary assessment. 11 School heads echo this sentiment with a massive 93% saying that the government needs to review the system12, however 87% believe that politicians don’t listen to them.13

Alison Ali from More Than A Score comments, “The call for an overhaul of the current primary assessment is getting louder year on year. Parents, teachers and heads almost unanimously agree that SATs and other primary testing cause unnecessary stress on children while taking up teaching time that could otherwise be spent delivering a more rounded and richer education. It is time that the government listened to those who know children best.”

1Source: 2020, YouGov, 2028 parents of primary-age children;2022, Parentkind, 1756 parents of primary- and secondary-age children

2 Source: ICAPE 2022, 536 parents

3Source: 2018, YouGov, 596 parents of primary-age children; 2022 ICAPE, 536 parents

4Source: 2018, YouGov, 596 parents of primary-age children; 2022 ICAPE, 536 parents

5Source: 2020, YouGov, 2028 parents of primary-age children; Parentkind, 2022, 1756 parents of primary- and secondary-age children

6Source: Source: Parentkind, 2022, 1756 parents of primary- and secondary-age children

7 Source: NAHT, 2022, 2000+ school leaders

8Source: 2022, YouGov, 1059 parents of children 18 and under

9Source:YouGov, 2019, 230 primary school heads

10Source: 2018, YouGov, 596 parents of primary-age children; 2022 ICAPE, 536 parents

11 Source: YouGov, 2022, 1059 parents of children 18 and under

12 Source: YouGov, 2019, 230 primary school heads

13Source: YouGov, 2019, 230 primary school heads

 

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