Education & Family

Sats for seven-year-olds set to be scrapped

Stressed out boy Image copyright Getty Images

Controversial national tests taken by seven-year-olds in England could be scrapped under new government plans.

The move follows years of pressure from teachers, parents and educationalists opposed to putting young pupils through high stakes national Sats tests.

The statutory tests in English, maths and spelling and grammar, are used to monitor schools' progress.

The Department for Education is proposing a new assessment for pupils when they first start school instead.

This should be done in such a way that pupils do not realise they are being assessed, the DfE said.

'Good news'

The results will be used to measure progress that pupils have made by the time they leave primary school aged 11.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said: "The government has reformed the primary school system to make sure children can master the basics of literacy and numeracy so they get the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in later life.

"Now we want to build on that by developing a stable assessment system that helps children learn, while freeing up teachers to do what they do best - supporting children to fulfil their potential."

The possibility that the controversial tests sat by children in Year 2 could be axed will be welcomed by many who argue they have been putting undue pressure on very young children.

The Let Kids Be Kids campaign said in a statement: "A massive cheer from us all here. A massive well done to all of you who have piled the pressure on and made this happen...

"A year ago we were planning the May 3 Kids' Strike and look how far we have come!"

The statement added: "Sadly tarnished by a small dose of healthy cynicism about the timing though... they've had all year announce this and have chosen now... why?!"


Analysis by Hannah Richardson

The statutory testing of young children is one of the most controversial areas in England's education system.

Parents want to know how their children are doing, but don't want to see them stressed out in the process.

But teachers, heads, academics and parents have been speaking with one voice on the issue for some time.

And the voice that said seven was too young to sit formal tests crescendoed last year, when new, much tougher Sats were introduced to assess the new, much tougher primary curriculum.

Parents complained their children were getting stressed out, and some even took them out of school on test days in protest.

The government is clear it still needs to monitor how schools are performing.

And it hopes a new light-tough assessment of children's ability when they begin school could provide the starting point for measuring progress.

But unless it gets that test right, it may find the new assessment becomes as unpopular as the last.


Teachers often complain that children in England are more frequently tested than those in the rest of Europe.

The new assessment - probably when children start Reception - is also likely to replace the Early Years Foundation Stage profile, which currently comes at the end of that school year.

It is understood that the National Association of Head Teachers has worked closely with the Department for Education on the planned changes which will now go out to consultation for 12 weeks.

This year's tests are expected to go ahead as planned, the DfE said.

General Secretary Russell Hobby said he appreciated the engagement of the Secretary of State with the concerns of school leaders.

"The possibility of ending Key Stage 1 Sats is good news.

"This creates the time and space in a pupil's primary years for teachers to focus on teaching rather than on high stakes assessment.

"It will properly reward early intervention and it will reduce workload.

Image caption Some parents staged a protest last week against primary school tests

"Overall, minimising the number of high stakes tests is the right way to go. This will help every school to deliver a rich educational experience for all children."

He said that the government had listened to many of the principles and recommendations in his union's report on assessment.

"There's more to be accomplished but we've made good progress from where we were a year ago," he added.

Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: "We have long campaigned for an end to national testing for all primary school children, and we are pleased that the government appears, finally, to be listening."

But she added new baseline assessments could disrupt the start of school, when young children needed to feel settled not judged.

National Union of Teachers general secretary Kevin Courtney said: "Our current primary assessment system is broken.

"Almost 50% of 11-year-olds were labelled failures last year as a result of badly designed and poorly implemented tests.

"Our members want a system that supports children to achieve their potential, gives useful information to parents and teachers and does not narrow the school curriculum."

Protests

Last year, hundreds of parents protested against the tests by taking their children out of school in some areas.

And primary school assessment was beset with difficulties after a number of papers were accidentally published and teachers complained of a lack of information on test levels.

Last autumn, Education Secretary Justine Greening said she would take steps to simplify the school assessment system.

She also pledged that no new national tests or assessments would be introduced before the 2018/19 academic year.

The government would look at the best starting point to measure children's progress in primary schools, she said, as well as the role of teacher assessment.

Mr Hobby also welcomed plans to allow a little leeway in the marking of writing assessments, and to look at the balance between the creative and technical aspects of writing.

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