Leeds headteacher says ministers should ‘should pause primary school tests to give children time to catch up’

Ministers should pause SATs and all statutory assessments in primary schools in England to give children time to catch up on lost learning, a coalition of head teachers, parents and MPs has said.

The Government’s plans to assess four and five-year-old children in their first few weeks of school from September should be postponed, according to a report from the More Than A Score campaign group.

Chris Dyson, head teacher at Parklands Primary School in Leeds, said: “No SATs this year will see an additional two months of learning time. This is what we would all like.”

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A YouGov survey of 2,012 parents in England with children aged four to 11 suggests that only 15 per cent think spending time preparing for SATs should be included in a “catch-up” programme for pupils.

There are calls for the Government’s plans to assess four and five-year-old children in their first few weeks of school from September should be postponed (Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

More than two in three parents (67 per cent) would prefer the programme to include children taking part in activities not available during lockdown – such as group sports, outdoor play and drama, the poll found.

The findings came as SATs in England’s primary schools have been cancelled for a second year in a row.

But the statutory rollout of the Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) – a new one-to-one assessment for pupils in Reception – is due to take place from September, after it was delayed by a year due to Covid-19.

Only 11 per cent of parents surveyed said they were unhappy that their children were unable to sit SATs or other statutory tests this year, according to the report.

Chris Dyson, head teacher at Parklands Primary School in Leeds

A separate poll of 230 primary school leaders in England suggests only four per cent think that preparation for SATs and other statutory assessments should be part of a recovery plan for primary schools.

The More Than A Score report calls for statutory tests to be dropped during the 2021-22 academic year to give primary schools and pupils the time required to bridge any learning gaps caused by the pandemic.

It calls on the Government to pause the introduction of the RBA, as well as SATs and all other statutory assessments in Years 1, 2, 4 and 6 – including the phonics and times tables checks.

The calls for action have been signed by a cross-party group of MPs and peers, writers, including Michael Rosen and Jamila Gavin, and hundreds of head teachers, academics and education experts.

Alison Ali, a spokeswoman for More Than A Score, said: “Everyone’s talking about catch-up and lost learning. At More Than A Score, we say there’s a simple solution for primary schools: don’t bring back SATs and the other assessments children have to sit in five out of seven years.

“Cancelling them for two years has had zero negative impact. Keeping them out of schools will give teachers and children the time they need to bridge learning gaps and focus on wellbeing.

“Change to the system is long overdue and any focus on true recovery is incomplete without an acknowledgement of this.

“The chorus of parents, heads, children, unions, MPs and dozens of organisations working in the field agree: the time has come to turn the page on the current primary assessment regime.”

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesman said: “Assessments are designed to enable teachers to track pupils’ progress, helping to make sure they stay on track to fulfil their potential throughout school.

“Our reforms are helping to ensure children leave primary school with a secure grasp of reading, writing and mathematics, as part of a broad and balanced curriculum.

“We have already invested £1.7 billion in ambitious catch-up activity, and are working with parents, teachers and schools to develop a long-term plan to make sure all pupils have the chance to recover from the impact of the pandemic as quickly and comprehensively as possible.”