Parents have rallied round a headteacher’s call to end SATs exams after this year’s reading paper was judged too hard – with capable pupils in tears after taking the exam.
Year 6 children are sitting the tests this week, which are statutory assessments taken by youngsters at the end of Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.
Teachers across the UK are now calling for the abolition of the SATs after witnessing how ‘tears flowed’ and ‘stress levels rose’ as students sat a reading exam this week.
Some staff argued that this year’s exam was more difficult than previous tests and was ‘not accessible’ to the ‘wide range of experiences and backgrounds’ among pupils. It was also claimed that ‘staff were struggling to understand the questions.’
The SATs have previously come under fire from both parents and teachers, who feel it’s unnecessary to test children at such a young age and not a fair assessment of their overall abilities.
Teachers argued that this year’s reading exam was more difficult than previous tests and was ‘not accessible’ to the ‘wide range of experiences and backgrounds’ among pupils. It was also claimed that ‘staff were struggling to understand the questions’ (stock photo)
Headteacher Kerry Forrester (pictured) has written to her MP saying ‘SATs must go’ after her ‘capable reader’ pupils ‘opened their reading test paper and were broken’
Mrs Forrester’ tweet slamming yesterday’s reading exam scored thousands of likes on Twitter and saw many parents open up about the demoralising effect on their children
Headteacher Kerry Forrester has written to her MP saying ‘SATs must go’ after watching how her pupils at Tarporley C of E Primary School, Cheshire, reacted to the tests yesterday.
She shared a copy of her letter online for other professionals and families to see and within a couple of hours it had been shared more than 40,000 times.
‘Today was not acceptable. I cannot believe what we put our 10 and 11 year old children through for the government. SATs must go,’ she penned. ‘Today I have written to my MP and urge you to do the same.’
In the letter, Ms Forrester described how yesterday’s testing was her ‘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 wrote.
‘For what, I found myself asking, for no other reason than to sit a test for the government DfE accountability measure.’
‘This was the most challenging reading test I have seen in my 29 years as a teacher and my 14 years as a headteacher. 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.’
She added that pupils put themselves under ‘immense pressure to perform well in these tests’, which has a negative impact on their self-esteem, confidence and mental health.
Urging her MP Edward Timpson to ‘consider the evidence and take action to address this issue’, she wrote: ‘Primary school should be where we make lifelong learners, not switch children off’.
Dozens of people responded to her tweet, many of them professionals who said they agree that SATs are unfair and today’s paper was particularly difficult.
‘Totally agree with this,’ said one. ‘It was completely unfair. Accessible to read but the questions were ridiculous and no clear answer. There was far too much for the hour time limit and totally unfair for pupils with ASD or slow processing. I will be writing to our MP too.’
‘So pleased teachers are finding their voice now!’ said a parent. ‘SATs totally drained my kids and we put no pressure on them at all, the school were really good too. It’s all very unnecessary and potentially harmful.. My dyslexic son is yr 7 he doesn’t know he failed his SATs. He’s brilliant!’
The Happy Confident Compant, which provides education resources to children, backed Mrs Forrester’s letter and shared the hashtag #SayNoToSats
Teacher Amanda Becker tweeted: ‘The reading paper today was too difficult for most of the children who have worked so hard…’
Sophie Smith-Tong wrote: ‘SATS narrow our teaching, cause unnecessary stress and all for the DfE’
Bethan Southern said her ‘bright and hard working’ son in Year Six shook his head after taking the exam, despite going in feeling prepared
Kerry Tatum tweeted: ‘My daughter, who is a Greater Depth child, sat this test today and came out of school crying saying it was so hard and she thing she did so badly’
‘My daughter is bright and was gutted today as she didn’t finish the paper,’ wrote Judith McLean
Another Twitter user said she left her teaching post after deciding she had ‘lost all faith’ in the education system
‘My daughter said today’s paper was horrible,’ tweeted Rebecca Pain
Adam Watson said: ‘When you can see the stress and anxiety written across your 11-year-old’s face after they’ve sat a SAT you know something is wrong’
Angela Crompt tweeted: ‘My son struggles and my heart breaks thinking of him sitting in these tests. They are inaccessible and age-inappropriate’
Ms Forrester said watching how her pupils at Tarporley C of E Primary School, Cheshire, (pictured) reacted to the tests yesterday was her ‘road to Damascus moment’
Ms Forrester shared a copy of her letter online for other professionals and families to see and within a couple of hours it had been shared more than 40,000 times
Similarly, Year 6 teacher Emma Wood took to Twitter saying how she was left ‘broken’ after seeing ‘so many disheartened children that would normally finish not getting to the last page’
Similarly, Year 6 teacher Emma Wood took to Twitter saying how she was left ‘broken’ after seeing ‘so many disheartened children that would normally finish not getting to the last page’.
She added: ‘Many asked why it was so much harder than any before.’
NAHT union head of policy Sarah Hannafin said the organisation is ‘very concerned’ about the reports it has received from members over the reading paper.
She told TES how many teachers claimed the exam questions were ‘difficult’, ‘not accessible’ and ‘leaving children upset’. Others alleged the exam left teachers ‘trying to rebuild’ pupils’ confidence.
The NAHT will ‘definitely raise these concerns with STA (Standards and Testing Agency) and also the Ofqual national assessments team,’ Ms Hannafin stated.
Union president-elect and headteacher Simon Kidwell added that the education sector has not seen ‘sorts of outcries’ over the difficulty of the SATs in several years.
A Department for Education spokesperson, responding to the furore, said: ‘Key Stage 2 assessments play a vital role in understanding pupils’ progress and identifying those who may have fallen behind, so they can be provided with extra support if needed.
‘It’s important that schools encourage pupils to do their best but preparing for these exams should not be at the expense of their well-being.’