28th March 2024

SATs Pressure Grows for Year 6 Pupils and Teachers

  • 88% of year 6 teachers have done practice papers under exam conditions in the past week
  • Two-thirds of teachers are feeling under pressure to deliver results, an increase from 46% in December
  • Two-thirds of teachers report that children are worried about failing SATs, up from 43% in December
  • Almost half of year 6 teachers say they are “teaching to the test”

As schools prepare to break up for the Easter holidays, the pressure is growing for year 6 pupils and teachers as they prepare for government SATs in May, according to new research from Teacher Tapp for campaign group More Than A Score.

A survey taken in the last week (22 – 25 March) shows that time in the year 6 classroom is now being spent on exam practice, teaching to the test and a focus on just English and maths. Only 8% of year 6 teachers surveyed reported doing no SATs preparation in the past week while 88% stated pupils have been sitting practice papers under exam conditions.

Meanwhile almost half (46%) of teachers surveyed say the curriculum has been narrowed to focus on just English and maths and 46% agree they are having to “teach to the test”. No wonder then that almost one in three (29%) of teachers report that SATs preparation is having a negative impact on pupil engagement.

The research also highlights concerns about pupil wellbeing. In December, 43% of teachers reported that some pupils were already worried about failing. In March, this figure has risen to 66%.

The government measures whole-school performance on the outcomes of the tests, placing the spotlight on one year group, and the research highlights the consequences for educators. Two-thirds of year 6 teachers and 53% of heads say they are feeling under pressure to deliver results.

Although the majority of teachers and heads do not agree with using SATs to measure school performance, they must adapt their teaching to suit the government’s accountability measures. As the school year progresses, this is becoming more prevalent: 83% of year 6 teachers confirm that they are delivering interventions to pupils who are behind their peers, specifically to support them through the tests, an increase from 60% in December.

Alison Ali of More Than A Score comments, “We know that the vast majority of schools do everything they can to make year 6 a stimulating learning experience for 10- and 11-year-olds. But, as the year progresses, it becomes all too obvious that heads, teachers and pupils are at the mercy of a system which places too much emphasis on one set of tests taken under exam conditions. Cramming, practice papers and pressure to pass are not the way to encourage a love of learning. It’s time to change the system.”


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