SATs results will be 'useless' – cancel them now, urge school leaders

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

This summer’s SATs should be cancelled given that the results will be “useless”, school leaders have urged.

In a survey of more than 2,000 primary school leaders only 8% agreed that the results this summer would provide meaningful data about their school’s performance; only 10% agreed that the data would be a reliable indicator of children’s attainment or progress.

The study has been conducted among members of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and when asked if SATs should go ahead, only 1% said they should at key stage 1, while only 3% felt they should at key stage 2.

The government intends for SATs to take place in May for key stage 1 and from May 9 to 12 for key stage 2.

The Department for Education has pledged that SATs data will be treated with caution by inspectors and Regional Schools Commissioners, but the headteachers in the survey simply do not believe this.

The study found that only 11% of the respondents trust the promise that Ofsted will not draw conclusions based on SATs data alone and that they will not draw comparisons with performance data from previous years.

The study findings have been published as Covid infection rates are spiking once again, leading to increased staff and pupil absence. The latest figures show that attendance in primary schools has fallen from 95.1% to 92% between March 3 and 17.

Meanwhile, 9.2% of primary school teachers and school leaders and 8.8% of teaching assistants and support staff were off on March 17 (DfE, 2022).

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: “Primary schools have experienced severe disruption due to Covid this year – just as much as in 2020 and 2021. And that disruption has not been felt evenly – some schools have been harder hit by staff and pupil absences than others, meaning children have had very different experiences of teaching and learning.

“For that reason, the results of SATs this year really can’t be compared, either with previous years or with other schools. There is a real danger that the data from these tests could paint a very misleading picture of an individual school’s performance and lead to incorrect conclusions being drawn.”

Elsewhere this week, research from the National Foundation or Educational Research (Twist et al, 2022) shows that the negative impact on reading progress from the partial school closures was greatest at key stage 1, particularly for pupils in year 1.

It also reports that by summer 2021, maths attainment was most severely affected among key stage 2 pupils and maths learning recovery in this age group has been much slower than reading for key stage 2.

Mr Whiteman continued: “Teachers don’t need SATs results to tell them about a pupil’s progress. They are already constantly assessing that, and are more aware than ever of what each child needs to help them recover any lost learning from the pandemic.

“SATs are not something teachers find valuable for assessment and are simply a distraction during a time when there is still significant disruption in schools.

“The week schools will need to spend putting children through these tests could be far better spent focusing on teaching and learning. That is particularly true this year given the time pupils have already missed from school due to Covid.

“SATs are really used to assess schools more than pupils – but the data from this year’s tests will be largely useless when it comes to judging a school’s performance.

“Although the government has told us that SATs data will be treated with caution by inspectors, local authorities and Regional Schools Commissioners, our members tell us that they simply do not trust that this will really be the case. The government needs to do a lot more to convince schools that SATs should go ahead as planned and to rebuild the trust of the profession.”

  • DfE: Week 12: Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, March 2022:
  • Twist, Jones & Treleaven: The Impact of Covid-19 on pupil attainmen, NFER, March 2022:

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