News | Published July 14 2019

One in three pupils underperform in core subject SATs in 2019

A third of primary school pupils taking SATs in England have not reached forecast levels in reading, writing and mathematics.

Standard Assessment Tests, a compulsory part of the national curriculum, were taken by pupils earlier this academic term.

The tests were subject to a shake-up back in 2016 to make them more challenging, with unions claiming that they were detrimental to the mental health and wellbeing of children.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: "Over a third of 11-year-olds will arrive in their new secondary school in September knowing that they have been labelled as 'below the expected standard’.

"This demoralising outcome is the result of policy-makers' delusion that to measure the performance of our primary school system it is necessary to test each individual pupil.

"Test-driven primary assessment is damaging to children's mental health and wellbeing. It intensifies the stress on teachers."

65 per cent of students in reading, writing and maths combined reached the required level, an increase of one per cent from the previous year.

However, individually, there was only progress in mathematics, with the rate of students reaching the expected level up to 79 per cent, a four per cent increase on 2018 results.

The proportion of pupils reaching expected levels in the remaining subjects individually were either down or unchanged.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said that the results demonstrate that “the majority” of pupils heading out of primary education are “ready to deal with the challenges of secondary school”.

Gibb added: "The pupils who performed well in these tests will have demonstrated sophisticated grammatical skills like using the subjunctive, the ability to divide fractions and mastery of complex spellings.

"It's testament to the hard work and dedication of teachers that we have seen results rising over time despite the bar of expectation having been raised.”

But not everybody agrees with the system. Jeremy Corbyn has previously said that a Labour government would look to scrap formal academic tests in primary schools.

Meanwhile, the NAHT union of school leaders is actively campaigning for the levels of compulsory national tests for primary school pupils to be reduced. 

Its Deputy General Secretary, Nick Brook, believes SATs results do not reflect "the full picture" and do not accurately demonstrate a child's individual strengths.

"SATs results and league tables provide nothing more than a snapshot of how children performed on a particular day, in a few short tests, in a limited number of subjects.

"We should therefore avoid celebrating too loudly or berating too strongly schools that rise or fall in their league table position as a result".

Brook has also criticised SATs for emphasising focus on good exam practice to the detriment of the wider curriculum.

"SATs tell teachers and parents little that they don't already know about their child or school but have the negative unintended consequences of distracting from teaching and learning and narrowing the focus of the curriculum.”

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
July 14 2019

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