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Primaries fail to opt out of SATs – but won’t be testing

Fewer than one in 10 primary schools opted out of receiving key stage 1 SATs papers this year, renewing calls for the government to “put an end to this unnecessary cost and waste” from leaders.

A recent poll found that about 60 per cent of primary teachers expect their school to do the tests for year 2 pupils this year – suggesting many papers could just be thrown away.

The Standards and Testing Agency required schools to opt out of receiving the optional SATs materials for seven-year-olds, despite the tests becoming non-statutory this year.

Schools that did not want to receive physical papers had to opt out by mid-November.

Data from a Freedom of Information request by Schools Week revealed that, of 16,033 eligible schools, just 1,073 declined the papers – about 7 per cent.

A Teacher Tapp survey last week found that about 60 per cent of 377 primary teachers said they would continue with key stage 1 SATs this year.

Tes reported that 33 per cent said they would be assessing in May and a further 28 per cent said they would run the tests at a different point in the academic year.

Fifteen per cent would be using their own assessment, while 12 per cent said they would not be running the tests at all.

Sarah Hannafin, head of policy at school leaders’ union NAHT, said it previously warned the government that “they risked wasting money with this ill-conceived approach of requiring schools to opt out of these tests.

“These figures indicate that we were right to be worried, and these unnecessary costs will stick in the craw of school leaders who are struggling to make budgets add up in many cases and who have been told repeatedly by the government to find efficiency savings.”

‘It made no sense to order papers’

Dawn Kimpton, headteacher at Shaw Primary Academy in Thurrock, said the school opted out as “it made no sense to order papers for something that we have never really agreed with in the first place.

“We have always undertaken regular formative assessment and termly summative checks,  which are different to the SATs tests and more accessible to our children.”

But Jamie Barry, headteacher at Yewtree Primary School in Sandwell, said the opt-out decision was an example of the DfE “potentially trying to reduce workload”.

He added: “If you had to opt in, it’s just one more thing to do for schools, and it’s something that could be forgotten.” His school is using the papers to test in June, rather than May.

Sarah Hannafin

The DfE said it provided the papers for schools “to use to support them in understanding pupil attainment and if pupils are on track to meet the expected standard at the end of KS2, to inform classroom practice accordingly.”

There is no requirement to report the results to councils or parents and data will not be collected on whether schools did use the papers.

Hannafin urged the government to offer papers under an “opt in”, model to “put an end to this unnecessary cost and waste”.

Arrangements for next year will be confirmed “in due course”. The cost of supplying the papers will not be available until later this year.

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