Almost all parents say that SATs have a negative impact on children’s wellbeing


Next week, young people completing their primary school education will take their Standard Assessment Tests (SATs). The tests, which were cancelled for the previous two academic years due to the pandemic, have proven unpopular both with parents and the teaching profession.

Now that SATs are returning, polling by Parentkind finds that:

  • 89% of parents disagree that SATs help to improve school standards
  • 86% disagree that SATs are a useful way for government to hold schools to account for their performance 
  • Perhaps most importantly, 95% report that SATs have a negative impact on their children’s wellbeing.

The Parentkind poll on this term's SATs coincides with the Standards & Testing Agency's publication of its special consideration guidance for schools. This allows headteachers to report where pupils' SATs results may be affected by adverse circumstances in order for the school’s overall performance to be given leniency.

Although headteachers are asked to ensure that pupils only take their SATs if they are in a fit physical and mental state, are working at the standard of the tests and have completed their studies, the exceptions cover only recent traumatic experiences and not standard Covid-related absences. Illness on the day would require pupils to take the test at a later date. The development is likely to worry parents who lack enthusiasm for the tests. They recognise that learning loss has occurred over the pandemic years, and their child’s mental health and wellbeing has become their primary concern. 

Parentkind CEO John Jolly said: "SATs are intended as a measure of schools, not pupils, but that doesn’t mean that children don’t worry about taking them. Of course schools must be held to account, but our research is showing that four out of five parents disagree that SATs provide them with useful information about their child’s achievements or progress in school. Not only that but nearly nine out of ten said they would support SATs being replaced by an alternative measure such as ongoing teacher assessment. The clear message we hear from parents is that they don't think now is the right time to reintroduce these primary assessments. They are more concerned about their children catching up on their education, being settled in their studies and acquiring the mental resilience to take that next big step into secondary school.

"The pandemic has prompted a national discussion about how we assess our schools and young people, and that includes whether or not the current system is the best way of providing the most satisfactory outcomes for children. Clearly, there is a high degree of parental scepticism about the role of SATs, since most parents tell us they don’t look at local results when choosing a school. In light of that, Parentkind is asking policymakers to listen to parent voice and concerns on primary assessment and ensure that parents are consulted about decisions that affect their families. That includes listening to their views and experiences when considering the future of SATs."

Research methodology

Parentkind SATs poll (England only)

Parentkind’s SATs poll was carried out online between 8th March and 21st March 2022, with recruitment through social media and via partner organisations. 1,727 parents across England responded.

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