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Pressure, Anxiety and Collateral Damage: the Headteachers’ Verdict on SATs

Bradbury, Alice; (2019) Pressure, Anxiety and Collateral Damage: the Headteachers’ Verdict on SATs. More Than A Score

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This report details fndings from a research study which explored headteachers’ views on the statutory assessments taken at the end of primary school, known as SATs. Data were collected through an online survey of headteachers with 288 respondents and in-depth interviews with 20 headteachers during March-June 2019. The key fndings are: 1. Primary headteachers in England view Key Stage 2 SATs as having a largely negative impact on the staff and pupils in their schools. 2. Headteachers’ concerns about SATs mainly relate to the high stakes they have for the school. This results in the need for Year 6 and in some cases the entire school to be organised in ways which maximise test scores, with effects on pupils, staff and headteachers. The impact of SATs is felt through a range of approaches to preparing for SATs. Many areas of school life are affected, including the curriculum, grouping and intervention strategies, provision of out-of-hours and holiday revision, and allocation of teachers and teaching assistants. 4. The approach taken to preparation varies in intensity, depending on factors such as the school’s previous results and Ofsted grade, position in the process of academisation, the attitude of parents and the size of the school. The differences in approach cast doubt on the operation of SATs as a ‘standardised’ test that can be reliably used to compare schools’ performance. As one headteacher commented, ‘It’s comparing who games best not who teaches best’.. Headteachers are concerned about the impact on children: 83% agree that ‘SATs have a negative impact on pupils’ wellbeing’. The main concerns relate to stress and anxiety, and the impact on pupils with SEND and those seen as ‘vulnerable’. Schools employ various techniques to help children manage and reduce the stress of SATs. 6. There are also serious concerns about the impact on staff: 99% of the survey respondents agreed that ‘SATs put pressure on teachers’, and 92% agreed that ‘SATs have a negative impact on teachers’ well-being’. The role of the Year 6 teacher has acquired increased signifcance and is prioritised in staff allocation. Headteachers themselves experience stress and anxiety related to SATs, particularly related to the possibility of losing their jobs if results go down. A considerable amount of headteachers’ time is taken up in supporting SATs preparation and making decisions based on the prioritisation of SATs results. 8. Recent changes to SATs are also seen negatively: 91% of survey respondents answered No to the question ‘In your view, have the changes made to the content of Key Stage 2 SATs in recent years improved the assessment?’. The division of children into those reaching an ‘expected level’, and those not, is seen as problematic, and the revised papers are seen as inappropriate by some. The additions to the assessment framework introduced in 2019 (the Multiplication Tables Check) and planned for 2020 (Reception Baseline Assessment) are seen by many headteachers as unnecessary, inaccurate and potentially damaging. 10. Many headteachers particularly object to the ways in which SATs results are used in a high stakes system of accountability through their links to Ofsted ratings and the negative comparisons they generate with other schools, as well as their impact on the children. As one commented, ‘There must be a better way to do it’. 11. Many headteachers accept some form of accountability is appropriate but would prefer more nuanced and complex systems of measuring their success which take into account schools’ different contexts and create less pressure than one week of tests. Many suggest using teacher assessment, either alone or alongside standardised assessments. 12. This research suggests SATs have farreaching and distorting effects on school organisation and the curriculum. As one headteacher put it, ‘With high stakes testing, the whole of the school’s activity is based around passing tests’.

Type: Report
Title: Pressure, Anxiety and Collateral Damage: the Headteachers’ Verdict on SATs
Publisher version: https://www.morethanascore.org.uk/wp-content/uploa...
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Education, Practice and Society
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10115940
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