United Kingdom

Sats do not harm children's wellbeing, study finds

Sats do not damage children’s wellbeing, a study has found, despite unions calling for the tests to be scrapped.

There does not appear to be strong enough evidence to support scrapping the national primary school exams, or Key Stage 2 tests, "on wellbeing grounds", researchers from University College London (UCL) said.

The exams, which take place in Year 6 in England when pupils are aged 10 and 11, made little difference in the wellbeing and happiness levels reported by the children who participated.

The study analysed data from around 2,500 children in England and 600 pupils in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales - where the tests do not take place.  

The children were asked a series of questions on how they felt about themselves and their lives in the lead-up to, and weeks following, the tests.

Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of school children in England said they felt unhappy about their schoolwork prior to the tests, compared with 28 per cent of children in the rest of the UK.

The findings have been released after a coalition of headteachers, parents and MPs this year called for ministers to pause Sats and all statutory assessments in primary schools in England to give children time to catch up on lost learning.

However, the research, which uses Millennium Cohort Study data from 2012, suggested that the Year 6 tests are not necessarily "high-stakes" indicators for children.

Study author Professor John Jerrim, from the UCL Social Research Institute, said: "Taken together, these findings provide an important counter to conventional narratives about how the Key Stage 2 tests can have serious negative impacts upon children's wellbeing."

He added: "Given what we found, there does not seem to be strong enough evidence to support Key Stage 2 tests to be scrapped on wellbeing grounds.

"The tests play a fundamental role feeding into school accountability metrics and our findings suggest they should continue in their current form for the foreseeable future."

However, education unions and campaigners have said the data does not take into account a number of reforms to primary assessment in recent years.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union's (NEU), said the researchers drew "conclusions about the future of primary testing based on analysis of the regime almost 10 years ago".

This was echoed by Tiffnie Harris, primary and data specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, who said: "The data these findings are based on is now nine years out of date and these tests are in need of reform for other reasons."

A Department for Education spokesperson said their assessment reforms are "helping to ensure children leave primary school with a clear grasp of the fundamentals of reading, writing and mathematics, as part of a broad and balanced curriculum. This helps lay the foundations for success at secondary school and beyond".

They added: "Schools should encourage all pupils to work hard and achieve well, but the department has never recommended that they devote excessive preparation time to assessment."

Football news:

Messi has a muscle injury. Tomorrow it will be known whether he will play with Lille
Mauricio Pochettino: I had problems when I said Messi should take the Golden Ball. Neymar and Mbappe asked why they didn't
Koeman was fired on the plane when Barcelona was flying home after the match with Rayo
A homophobic tweet was published on behalf of Shomurodov. Roma stated that the account is fake
Neymar on the words about the 2022 World Cup: I was misunderstood. I go out to every match as if he is the last
Lautaro has extended his contract with Inter until June 2026. There are no compensation now
Pochettino on Messi: Guardiola said he can play in any position. He has an exceptional ability to be anywhere on the pitch