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2016 SATs data is not fit for publication, say school leaders

Speaking ahead of SATs results published today (Tuesday 5 July), Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, says: “These results cannot and must not be compared to data from previous years. If they are, they will give a misleading picture of school performance.

“Children who sat Key Stage 2 SATs this year are the first to be tested on the new National Curriculum. They have only had two years to master a curriculum which should normally be taught over a four year period. The government is proud to say this new curriculum is harder than in previous years, but seemingly happy to put these children at an automatic disadvantage.

“Added to this, the government has made serious mistakes in the planning and implementation of SATs this year, with delays and confusion in the guidance materials. 

“School leaders feel that these factors make it reasonable to hold off publishing this year’s data and we made this suggestion in a letter to the Secretary of State on 23rd May. However, despite restating a ‘commitment to listen to and work closely with teachers and head teachers’ in her reply, the Secretary of State remained determined to publish the 2016 scores anyway, regarding this as ‘essential to make school performance clear to parents.’

Mr Hobby continued: “Given the changes to SATs this year, and the mistakes we’ve seen, it is hard see how valuable this data will be to parents who want to understand how well a school is performing year on year or compared to other schools. But the government does love a league table, regardless of how accurate it may be.

NAHT believes that assessment is an important part of the education system, but the government needs to work with the profession to make sure this year’s mistakes are not repeated and to build a system that works better for children, parents and schools. We have set up an independent Assessment Review Group to consider the assessment arrangements that should be in place from the start of school through to the beginning of Key Stage 3.

James Bowen, director of NAHT Edge, the middle leaders’ union and member of the Assessment Review Group says: “SATs have become a box-ticking exercise for children in order to satisfy bureaucrats and politicians. The poorly designed tests and last minute changes we have seen this year do not add value to teaching.

“Increasingly, parents and teachers agree that high-stakes statutory tests like SATs can actually make it harder to find out what children are really learning and to improve their education. Schools and parents cannot face another year of assessment chaos. We reaffirm our offer to the government to work with us to get it right next year. There is much that we can achieve if we work together.”

First published 15 December 2017