Young children 'becoming increasingly stressed by SATs'

Children are getting stressed by SATs
Children are getting stressed by SATs

Pupils in years 2 and 6 are sitting SATS exams this month.

Research by PlanBee found that 95 percent of teachers believe young children are becoming increasingly stressed by SATs while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to ditch them.

Planbee carried out the survey of teaching professionals, with the results showing that teachers had overwhelmingly negative attitudes towards SATs preparation for young children and were very fearful of its impact on their mental health.

Teachers responded saying children were feeling sick, not wanting to come to school, being teary, anxious, having problems sleeping, headaches, bed-wetting, and displaying emotional outbursts and low self-confidence.

We asked people for their views:

Former teacher Becky Cranham, who now works for lesson planners PlanBee said: “One would hope that subjecting children to rigorous, standardised testing would be used to help further the children’s education, assess pupil attainment and improve learning.

Alas, this does not seem to be the case. A whopping 87.5 per cent of our respondents believed that the primary purpose of SATs was to assess school performance.

Only 2.7 per cent of respondents said the purpose of the tests was to inform setting for Year 3 or Year 7 and just 4.2 per cent believed it was to assess and improve pupil learning.

We know that many children are becoming more stressed about SATs at a time when they should be enjoying the broad and balanced curriculum that Ofsted agrees enables children to achieve most successfully in their school careers.

However, the pressure put on teachers to achieve particular SATs results – and the subsequent pressure teachers then have to put on their pupils ­– means that in reality many curriculum areas are pushed aside in favour of ensuring children are ready for the tests, particularly in Year 6.”

Ms Cranham said that in her experience, parents were swayed by Ofsted rankings rather than SATs results and queried who was actually benefitting.

She added: “Why on earth are we still bothering with SATs?”

Read more: A full list of planning applications from across Leeds
Former teacher Peter Storey - now a lecturer at the University of Leeds and a member of the Labour Party in Leeds - said: "Testing is not teaching.

Indeed, the more time spent testing our schoolchildren the less time teachers have to prioritise their real job: facilitating learning. For most educators ‘teaching to the test’ is the polar opposite of good teaching and anyone with experience of working in our schools in recent years would surely recognise the dark shadow SATs examinations cast over the educational landscape. In the months preceding these tests, some schools become little more than exam factories with pupils simply sitting repeated past papers in lieu of any actual lessons. Opportunities for inspirational teaching and learning are lost as schooldays, which ought to be carefree and joyous, become stress-filled and ominous.

The value of SATs has long been disputed by those working in education and a 2018 National Education Union survey clearly demonstrates teachers’ disdain for the tests, with 88 per cent of those surveyed stating they believed they bring no educational benefit. Many schools already implement successful SATs boycotts, often with support from parents, and there is no evidence that the children or schools in question have suffered as a result.

Educational literature is replete with robust arguments against standardised testing, yet when compared against other European school systems ours stands out as somewhat ridiculously over-reliant on arbitrary examinations. In Finland (often regarded as the finest school system on the continent) there are no mandated tests until students’ final year of senior school. Those in favour of SATs may claim they’re an invaluable tool for parents to assess the quality of their local schools. But in reality, they are far too blunt an instrument for this and cannot give any real insight. The demise of SATs is long overdue, and the Labour Party should be congratulated for supporting our teachers on this matter."

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See for the full research.