1st July 2020

Parents call for government to Cancel SATs in 2021 and put children’s well-being first

Parents and children have not missed SATs and other government tests during the lockdown period and they are bottom of the list of their priorities when schools fully re-open, according to a new survey  conducted by YouGov on behalf of campaign group More Than A Score.

The research also demonstrates children’s mixed feelings about returning to school and reveals that a significant number of year 5 pupils (41% of those questioned) are already worried about taking SATs next year.
The strength of parents’ feelings on the issue of formal government tests is clear from the research:

  • Over three-quarters of parents surveyed (77%) agree that the prospect of taking SATs and other  formal tests will add to the stress of children returning to school.
  • Only one in four parents (27%) believe SATs should go ahead in 2021
  • Only 12% of parents surveyed were concerned that their children have missed SATs or other formal tests.

Not sitting government tests comes bottom of parents’ concerns about children being away from school. They have been most concerned about children not seeing their friends (85% of those questioned); the quality of teaching provided at home versus school (64%), and losing the structure of the school day (61%).

Children aged 6 – 11 also placed getting ready for tests at the very bottom of the “what have you missed about school?” list, with only 6% of those surveyed agreeing. Overwhelmingly, children have missed their friends the most (85% agreed). Other aspects of school that they have missed include:

• Their teachers (57%)

• The playground (50%)

• Learning new things (35%)

• After school clubs and activities (34%)

• My classroom (33%)

• Lunch (29%)

When schools fully re-open, SATs will still remain a low priority for parents. Only 8% of those surveyed (whose children didn’t attend school during Coronavirus, but did before) consider preparing for formal tests to be important. Parents’ main considerations are their children having the chance to socialise with their friends (81% surveyed agree); their mental well-being (79% agree) and a welcoming and a safe and welcoming school environment (76% agree).

Meanwhile, primary school children who did not attend school during Coronavirus, but did before, have mixed feelings about going back to school. While the majority have positive feelings (30% of those surveyed are excited and 24% are happy), some (22%) confess to being nervous and 11% are worried about the prospect.

Perhaps they are already concerned about sitting government tests? Over one in five (21%) are worried that they won’t be able to catch up on lessons they have missed, while almost a quarter (24%) of 10-year-olds, who will be taking SATs next year, are worried that they will have to work even harder in preparation for the tests.

When it comes to learning, almost two-thirds of parents (62% of those surveyed) are looking for a curriculum that takes into account what their children have missed and provides ample opportunity to catch up.

Their children are also clear about how they like to learn. Only 17% of those surveyed enjoy practising for tests. Meanwhile, over two-thirds (68%) like to work on lots of different subjects; some (48%) enjoy working on large group projects, while over two in five (44%) like to work one-to-one with their teacher.

Alison Ali, parent to 11-year-old twins, and a member of the More Than A Score group, comments, “Time at home has given parents like me the chance to fully appreciate what an important role teachers play. My children love learning at school with their teacher and their friends. They hate cramming for government tests and sitting them under exam conditions. No one has missed SATs and this time away from school has shown what a pointless exercise they are.

Chris Dyson, Headteacher of Parklands Primary School in Leeds comments, “The government must cancel SATs in 2021 and find a new way to measure schools which does not rely on young children sitting high-pressure tests. “Heads are in agreement with parents. This year, more than ever, we should not be spending our time preparing children for government tests. We must prioritise their mental health and well-being and inspire them to love learning again. Kate Owbridge, Executive Headteacher of Ashdown Primary School in East Sussex, comments, “High quality teaching delivers high standards in education. Intensive cramming for formal tests does not guarantee standards and won’t close any gaps in learning.”

More Than A Score is campaigning for the government to drop SATs and other formal primary school tests in 2021. The group’s petition to the government has already gathered almost 15,000 signatures.


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