Calls for SATs to be scrapped after English paper ‘left pupils in tears’

Calls have been made for SATs exams for 10 and 11-year-olds to be scrapped after an English paper left children “in tears”.

Dozens of parents and teachers have shared their concerns about the Year 6 SATs, with one saying on Mumsnet that her daughter had found the exam “really hard and awful”. A Year 6 teacher said Wednesday’s reading paper was “hideous” and “much harder than last year’s.”

“I really feel for all these Year 6s,” another Mumsnet user commented, adding that they “hate” the fact that 10 and 11-year olds are being forced to sit exams. SATs, or Standard Assessment Tests, are used to measure children’s English and maths skills in Year 2 and Year 6 and consist of six 45-minute papers.

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The Department for Education website states that SATs are meant to “measure school performance and to make sure individual pupils have the support that they need as they move into secondary school”. Beth Southern, an educational consultant and qualified primary school teacher from Bury, Greater Manchester, said her son was “disappointed” after this week’s English paper turned out to be much more difficult than he had expected.

“My son feels disappointed that he found the reading test yesterday so challenging. He said the texts were long and wordy and that he had to use a lot of time trying to understand them which didn’t leave enough time for the questions,” she said. “He knows he was fortunate to finish when others have been left in tears.”

Ms Southern said she believes the paper was set at a higher reading comprehension level than most Year 6 children can comprehend. “Most children needed more time yesterday than the hour allocated so I wonder what the word count was,” she said.

“I have been told yesterday’s test was dense, packed with difficult vocabulary, idiomatic language and a huge amount of inference was needed to complete it. This is such a difficult thing for children who don’t speak English as their first language and will no doubt have left them feeling like failures. It’s awful that we assess a child’s entire primary school reading ability on a single hour-long test that was way too complex for 10 to 11-year-olds to comprehend.”

Jayne Robinson, 39, who works as a nurse, said that many of her daughter’s friends were unable to finish the exam, even though her Stoke-on-Trent school had been helping pupils prepare for their SATs since Christmas. “These exams have been much harder than the practice papers my daughter has sat,” she told the PA news agency.

“My daughter had a lot of SATs practice, but she said some of her friends couldn’t finish the paper as it was too long, one of her friends made up answers at the end just to finish the paper. Her school has been fantastic, they’ve made it as calming as possible, with exams and prep sessions planned around breakfasts in the morning and break times. We can’t fault them, this is no reflection on them,” she added.

Kerry Forrester, a head teacher at a Cheshire primary school, has written to her local MP expressing concern about the “negative impact” that the exams have had on the “mental health and wellbeing” of her pupils. In a letter she shared on Twitter, Ms Forrester says that this year has seen “the most negative impact on our children that we have ever experienced”.

“Tears flowed from our most capable readers and stress levels rose amongst all others,” she said, adding that “this was the most challenging reading test I have seen in my 29 years as a teacher”.

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

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