Primary SATs tests – what prepares children best – expert reaction

The latest report from the Education Select Committee scrutinised Government reforms to primary assessment and their impact on teaching and learning in primary schools, as well as investigating the debates over the benefits and drawbacks of testing at primary school. The report is published a week ahead of children around the country taking SATs in English and maths.

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

“Key Stage 2 assessment of mathematics has some potentially helpful qualities, in that papers 2 and 3 foreground problem solving so that, in theory, children will become better at adapting their knowledge and using it to make sense of situations.  In practice, however, the demands of paper 1 dominate much of the work done to prepare for the test, so that many children are being drilled into doing written calculations rather than understanding underlying mathematical principles and using adaptive reasoning and efficient methods. It is these latter qualities that prepare children well for mathematics in secondary school yet the experience of many is skewed towards procedural performance.  We cannot blame teachers for this skewed experience, since it is what the SATs require for success.”

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