Teachers say SATs are harming mental health of primary school children

Many teachers feel SATs are not benefiting pupils.
Many teachers feel SATs are not benefiting pupils.

Nearly 95 per cent of teachers are against the controversial year two and year six tests, sighting children with problems sleeping, headaches, bed-wetting, and displaying emotional outbursts, negative changes in behaviour, and low self-confidence.

As year six pupils all over the country sit SATs, research reveals that some 95 per cent of teachers and teaching assistants believe that young children are becoming increasingly stressed by the tests, which pupils must also take in year two of of primary school.

Among the disturbing responses to the stress of the tests seen frequently by the hundreds of teachers surveyed were children feeling sick, not wanting to come to school, being teary, anxious, having problems sleeping, headaches, bed-wetting, and displaying emotional outbursts, negative changes in behaviour and low self-confidence.

The survey, by lesson-planning and resources experts PlanBee, comes after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn vowed that a Labour government would scrap SATs, saying that young children should not be subjected to ‘extreme pressure testing’.

One teacher who replied to the survey said: "I’ve seen a year twochild cry during the test.

"This was an able child and I had to tell him how amazing he was and that what he did in the test did not matter because I already knew how good he was."

Another reported ‘nervous fidgeting during teaching and follow-on work, increased sensitive behaviour, lack of motivation/interest in the curriculum, parents reporting the child didn’t want to come to school’.

The survey shows that teachers are equally opposed to the tests across the country, with few regional variations.

When asked if year two children should revise for SATs, 75.3 per cent of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that children should be revising at all, with less than ten per cent of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that they should revise.

The attitude to revision by year six pupils was only slightly less hostile, with 50.8 per cent believing they should not revise.

Twenty-six per cent said that at this stage children should definitely revise, the remaining 23.3 per cent taking a middle view, suggesting they favour less intensive revision sessions than many schools currently provide.

Very few schools allow their pupils to undertake SATs with little or no preparation.

So should children as young as six be aware that they are revising for an ‘important’ test?

An overwhelming 85.9 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that year two children should not be aware they are revising, compared to 48.1 per cent for year six.

Only 6.3 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed that year two children should not know they are revising, compared to 29.3 per cent for year six.

Former teacher Becky Cranham of lesson planners PlanBee, which carried out the survey of 334 teaching professionals , said the results showed that teachers had overwhelmingly negative attitudes towards SATs preparation for young children and were very fearful of its impact on their mental health.

She said: "One would hope that subjecting children to rigorous, standardised testing would be used to help further the children’s education, assess pupil attainment and improve learning.

"Alas, this does not seem to be the case. A whopping 87.5 per cent of our respondents believed that the primary purpose of SATs was to assess school performance."

Only 2.7 per cent of respondents said the purpose of the tests was to inform setting for year three of year seven and just 4.2 per cent believed it was to assess and improve pupil learning.

Ms Cranham added: "We know that many children are becoming more stressed about SATs at a time when they should be enjoying the broad and balanced curriculum that Ofsted agrees enables children to achieve most successfully in their school careers.

"However, the pressure put on teachers to achieve particular SATs results – and the subsequent pressure teachers then have to put on their pupils ­– means that in reality many curriculum areas are pushed aside in favour of ensuring children are ready for the tests, particularly in year six.

Ms Cranham said that in her experience, parents were swayed by Ofsted rankings rather than SATs results and queried who was actually benefiting from the annual ordeal.

She concluded: "Why on earth are we still bothering with SATs?"