What is the context?
In July 2020, the government announced that almost all statutory primary assessments, including SATs, will go ahead in 2021, despite the significant disruption to children’s learning as a result of the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 crisis.
We are still waiting for confirmation on whether or not performance tables will be suspended in 2021, as they were in 2020. ASCL’s clear position is that this should happen (see position statement on external accountability in 2021).
ASCL believes that SATs should be cancelled in 2021, even if performance tables are suspended. This decision needs to be made quickly to provide much-needed reassurance to leaders, teachers and children, and to enable schools to plan appropriately.
SATs should not, in our view, be replaced with any other national form of assessment this year. Instead, schools should be trusted to assess children themselves, and to report the outcomes of these assessments to parents and to the secondary schools Year 6 children will go on to next year.
ASCL understands that the government will want to find ways to understand the impact of the pandemic on this year’s cohort. We would therefore support the government if they wished to take a sampling approach, asking a representative sample of schools to undertake SATs, with the results of those tests to be only reported at a national or regional level, and not linked to specific schools.
Why we are saying it?
The stated role of SATs is to assess the performance of schools, not individual pupils. Schools will have had such different degrees of disruption over the year leading up to SATs that any attempt to use these assessments to compare schools will be meaningless and potentially hugely misleading.
The children whose education has been most disrupted will be disproportionately from disadvantaged backgrounds, who will therefore be even more likely than usual not to achieve national expectations. Going ahead with SATs therefore risks labelling large numbers of disadvantaged children as ‘failures’, with all the issues that could create.
If SATs go ahead this year, schools will spend time preparing children for them, which could be much better used in supporting them to catch up with lost learning.