Head teacher demands SATs scrapped after pupils left in ‘tears’ and ‘broken’ over ‘challenging’ test
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A primary school head teacher has demanded the SATs tests - which are taking place nationwide this week - be scrapped after her pupils were left in tears by the pressure. In a letter written to her local MP, Kerry Forrester, a head of Tarporley C of E Primary School in Cheshire, urged other teachers to do the same.
Year 6 children are currently sitting the tests, which are statutory assessments taken by children in Year 2 and Year 6 in England to check their educational progress. These tests are used to measure school performance and to make sure individual pupils have the support they need before going into secondary school.
However, the tests can put ‘undue pressure’ on children, said Ms Forrester, which can have a “significant impact on their mental health and well-being.” She wrote: “These are bright, capable children who no matter how many times we tell them not to worry they continue to pile immense pressure on themselves.
“Today (Wednesday, May 10), really was my ‘road to Damascus’ moment. My year 6 children, all capable readers who love reading, opened their reading test paper and were broken! Tears flowed from our most capable readers and stress levels rose amongst all others.”
She said the paper “was the most challenging reading test” she has seen in her 29 years as a teacher and her 14 years’ career as a head teacher. She added: “Since Covid, we have spent time supporting our children to catch up and to believe in themselves as learners. Today saw so much of that work destroyed by a snapshot from an inappropriate test.”
Ms Forrester claimed research has shown SATs can lead to “increased anxiety, stress, and even depression in children.” She said: “Moreover, SATs can also be detrimental to the overall learning experience of children.
“Instead of fostering a love for learning and encouraging creativity and critical thinking, children are being taught to memorise facts and figures for the sake of passing a test.” Her letter, which was published on Twitter, then prompted other teachers and parents to share their own accounts of how difficult they have found this year’s tests to be.
A mother said: “My daughter said today’s paper was horrible.” Another parent said the tests could be particularly difficult for children with special needs. She said: “Well done for speaking out, Kerry. My son is at Bunbury.
“He struggles and my heart breaks thinking of him sitting in these tests. They are inaccessible and age-inappropriate. Many SEND children don’t stand a chance. Ableist comes to mind. We need to fight these all the way.”
A teacher said: “Totally agree - we’ve watched it get worse year on year and strip them more and more of what should be a time full of wonder, exploration and discovery. As a teacher and now as a parent, I think it’s awful and completely unnecessary.”
What are SATs and what happens if your children fail the tests
According to the Government’s website, SATs are used to measure school performance and to make sure individual pupils have the support that they need as they move into secondary school, alongside teacher assessment of English writing and science.
If you have a child in year 6, at the end of key stage 2 (KS2), they will take national curriculum tests in English grammar, punctuation and spelling, English reading and mathematics.
However, there’s no direct consequence of a child failing their SATs although the results may reflect badly on the school, but they don’t have to retake the exams. The children will get their SATs results in July, usually at the same time as their end of year report.
What does the Government say if your child experiences anxiety and stress?
The Government says the KS2 assessments only include questions on things that children should already have been taught as part of the national curriculum. As such, children should not be made to feel undue pressure over them.
Headteachers make the final decision about whether a pupil participates in the KS2 tests or not. Some pupils (for example, some pupils with special education needs or disabilities) may be assessed under different arrangements.