If your child missed the Phonics Screening Check in year 1 because of Covid lockdown, they’ll now have to do the test when they start the autumn term of year 2 in September 2020. Anyone who doesn’t meet the “expected standard” will have to retake it in the summer term just when they’ll be sitting Key Stage 1 SATs, meaning some children will sit three sets of government tests before their 7th birthday.
This forces teachers to spend time preparing children who have been out of school for nearly half a year for a test that serves little purpose.
In the summer, your child will sit four Key Stage 1 SATs papers in English and maths. There are also two optional national tests in spelling, punctuation and grammar, so your child could sit as many as six test papers.
SATs are marked by teachers, then moderated by local authorities who sample 25% of schools each year. Currently, the results are used to measure pupils’ progress between year 2 and year 6, and schools are judged on the basis of these scores.
The government intends to make KS1 SATs non-compulsory from 2024, when its plans to test children in reception instead are fully rolled out. But year 2 tests would not disappear: the government will still provide test materials and many schools will use them.
All of this means that some pupils could end up doing three sets of tests before their seventh birthday. This is far too young to be sitting formal tests, and teachers and schools should not be judged on the basis of data collected under these conditions.
Ofsted has noted that the primary curriculum is narrowing due to the fact that some schools are focusing too much on preparing for SATs.
Researchers have linked formal testing in year 2 to teaching practices that actually hold back children’s learning. On the basis of SATs results, children in many schools are placed in sets for English and maths for the rest of their primary schooling. This can affect their self-esteem and lower teachers’ expectations.
Independent YouGov research with headteachers shows how near-unanimously unhappy they are with the current system.