Why SATs Formal Testing Should Be Abolished

SATs are the formal assessments in English and mathematics of children's attainment at age 11 using externally-marked national tests set by a Government agency. Earlier assessments of children at age 7 are made and marked by their teachers.

Recently they were renamed National Curriculum Tests but the older name persists. Originally SATs stood for Standard Assessment Tasks but this was later changed to Standard Attainment Tests

The results are communicated to parents for their own child, and to government as an average for each school. They are also used by Ofsted inspectors to help rate schools.

The results at age 11 are published as league tables in national and local newspapers.

A government website statement for parents says:

    ‘At the end of each key stage, your child's teacher will formally assess their performance to measure your child's progress. Of course, your child's teacher will be informally assessing their learning at other times to help them plan future teaching. … During Key Stages 1-3, progress in most National Curriculum subjects is assessed against eight levels. At the end of Key Stages 1, 2 and 3 the school will send you a report telling you what level your child is working at. Your child will take national tests at the end of Key Stage 2. The tests are intended to show if your child is working at, above or below the target level for their age. This helps the school to make plans for their future learning. It also allows schools to see whether they are teaching effectively by comparing their pupils' performance to national results.’

This may sound very positive – but read what some distinguished critics have said:

    ‘The testing and targets regime introduced under Labour has had a hugely negative impact. Some of the joy has gone out of education: the actual fun of learning has been increasingly overtaken by examinations and a focus on league tables. Kids are quite stressed out by the age of eight. I’m sorry to sound so sentimental, but joy and fun are absolutely central to education.’ Shirley Williams, Liberal Democrat peer and former Labour secretary of state for Education 2007

    ‘The research indicates that everything in year six drives towards the test, but in year seven they have forgotten what they learnt because the only purpose of learning was to pass the test.’ Keith Bartley, chief executive of the General Teaching Council, 2008

    ‘If Ofsted are saying that the nature of testing is affecting children’s education, when is this government going to admit that the game is up? My colleagues are saying almost universally that the emphasis has to be put back on teaching, instead of this fixation with targets and tests.’ Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, 2008

It is clear from the newspaper evidence that there is tremendous and grave concern across the teaching profession and the research community about SATs. As other parts of this web-site show there is also much concern about Ofsted and, to a lesser extent, the national curriculum. Each has served its purpose in the past, but now, for the sake of effective education of the children in our schools, should be taken off the statute book.

The argument of this web-site is that while the formal assessments by teachers and the national tests at the end of Key Stage 2 put undesirable pressure on children, teachers, and parents, in contrast the informal assessments by teachers are essential for effective classroom learning and provide good and ample evidence for communications between teachers and parents on the progress of their children.

To read more about SATs click on the following.

SATs Testing Originally was Valuable, but Government Moved the Goal-posts

Seven Alleged Government Arguments for SAT Assessment are Refuted Here

Transfer to Secondary Education in the Absence of SATs? Why Not Wait Till Teachers Assess Pupils as at Level Four in Maths and English?

What would happen if Sats were abandoned?

This page was last amended on 23 April 2010