Primary assessment changes – no year 7 re-sits. Expert reactions to government announcement

The government has announced various changes to assessments in primary schools including dropping the plan for children to re-sit their KS2 national curriculum SATs tests in year 7.

Comment from Anne Watson, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics Education, University of Oxford: 

“I welcome the announcement about removing the threat of resits in year . In mathematics, most of the material tested at KS2 also appears in KS3 already, and is integrated into more advanced ideas and approached in ways more appropriate to the age group. Some of the ‘lost ground’ referred to by the statement will be because of being pushed hard to perform procedures in year 6 without sufficient conceptual basis, and secondary mathematics teachers will want to ensure that these ideas are now well-grounded and not rushed for an imposed resit test.”

Anne Watson is also Codirector: PMTheta (Promoting Mathematical Thinking). You can read her previous comments about the KS2 SATs here.

Comment from Professor David Putwain, School of Education, Liverpool John Moores University who has research pupil stress and primary tests:

“We all want to know how children get on at school and this typically involves testing children’s abilities in reading, writing, spelling, addition, subtraction, and so on. We also want to know that our schools are doing a good job in teaching children these skills.

It might not seem unreasonable to check the typical school levels of attainment in literacy and numeracy from National Curriculum Tests (or SATs), or to compare levels of numeracy and literacy from one school to another. However, the present accountability systems (league tables, teacher performance-related pay, and so on) incentivise schools to focus on SATs performance at the detriment on other subjects. It is not uncommon for pupils in their final year of primary schooling practicing SATs tests rather than being engaged in more interesting and creative forms of learning. A recent report labelled this the exam factory. Children come to equate education with being tested and despite the best attempts of parents and teachers to shield children from this pressure, some inevitably become highly anxious. The experience of ‘failing’ can be highly damaging for children at this age and begin the gradual cycle of disengagement from education that comes to a head later in secondary school.

The decision by the Secretary of State for Education to consult over primary assessment and delay the introduction of any new tests until 2018 is welcomed. It will not make matters any worse. However, it will not make matters any better either. If the Secretary of State for Education is serious about holding teachers and schools to account without damaging the education of children, she will have to de-couple accountability judgements from SATs tests and explore alternative ways of judging the qualities of schools and teachers.”

Notes to journalists:

Profesor Putwain’s previous comment about stress and tests can be read here. His above comment is based on the following research:

Connor, M.J. (2003) Pupil stress and standard assessment tests (SATS): an update. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 8, 101-107.

Harlen, W., & Deakin-Crick, R. (2002) A systematic review of the impact of summative assessment and tests on students’ motivation for learning (EPPI-Centre Review version 1.1). In Research

Evidence in Education Library. Issue 1. Lodnon: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education.

Hutchings, M. (2015). Exam factories: The impact of accountability measures on children and young people. Chelmsford: Ruskin Press.

Putwain, D.W., Connors, E., Woods, K.A., Nicholson, L.J. (2012) Stress and anxiety surrounding the Key Stage 2 Standard Assessment Tests in English schoolchildren. Pastoral Care in Education,30(4), 189-302.

Troman, G. (2008) Primary teacher identity, commitment and career in performative school cultures. British Educational Research Journal, 34(5), 619-633.

Tymms, P., & Merrell, C. (2007) Standards and Quality in English Primary Schools Over Time: The National Evidence (Primary Review Research Survey 4/1). Cambridge: The University of Cambridge Faculty of Education.

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