Why I Think SATs Are Ridiculous

I hate, detest, despise and loathe SATs.  Strong words I know.

Waste of time, effort, resources. Makes our children stressed, unhappy and wastes valuable curriculum time.

A survey of 1,200 teachers by the Key, a national school support service, found that four in five (81%) primary school leaders who were surveyed said they were more worried about their pupils’ mental health during assessment periods now than they had been two years ago.

Good grief. What are we doing to our children? And for what purpose?

Read on….

7 Reasons Why I Think SATs Are Ridiculous

#1 Who cares?

UK is compared to other countries with better exam results. So what? If you don’t agree with the measure what does it matter if you come 1st or 100th? What does it matter if our children are no good at rote learning but are amazing at inventing? Is there an exam for that? Hell, no! So I don’t care if we are 20th. Take a look at the table below. Would you like your child to be educated in a system which requires “drill and practice” ?Capture

Is this how our great modern entrepreneurs and inventors made an impact? No! They are free thinkers with space to be creative. Yes we need to teach our children the basics but really do we need automatons? Our current educational system was designed to educate workers for the Industrial Revolution of the Victorian Age. But what are the skills are our children going to need? Jobs they will be doing haven’t even been invented yet.

So why are we wasting precious time cramming for skills that won’t be needed. Handwriting! When was the last time you were concerned about your loops and tails? We need to be spending precious curriculum hours on the new subjects of internet safety and online bullying. Teach our children how to manage money and financial prudence. Teach our children how to look after our planet.

#2 We know the outcome before we start

After all the drilling, rote learning, stressing, booster groups, more booster groups the children’s scores are almost identical to the teacher assessments. So why bother?

I agree we need National Curriculum but many schools now teach ‘Creative Curriculum’. This means that in a World War II project our children will re-enact an air raid in the school basement, interview a local resident who remembers being evacuated, then will write a poem based on these experiences and the results are beautiful. This is meaningful.

SATs meanwhile present dry, bland, uninspiring, unrelatable questions and our children are bored beyond tears practising them over and over. The outcome is children are hugely turned off learning.

A middle-class school will always do better than an inner city school because, another wonderful thing about SATs, is that schools are compared to one another. Children with tutors, or parents who drill their children in the components of a SATs test, will obviously do better. So, is it a fair test?

#3 Creativity is stifled

With the amount of time spent on SATs obviously something has to give. And guess what that is? Art, drama, construction, design and technology. History, geography, science and RE are all rushed. Our Y2 children spend so much time on phonics (because yes they will be assessed) that the class teacher does not have enough time to read them a story!

Our children with ADHD who may flourish in the creative subjects are given fewer opportunities to shine.

#4 Emotional health suffers

In a time when we are increasingly concerned about our children’s emotional health, why oh why do we need to start piling on the pressure at such a young age?

Life is stressful enough when we are adults. If we have strong enough emotional resilience we will get through.

But our neurodiverse children haven’t developed such coping mechanisms at 6 years old. And the result will be little children who are too  worried about knowing their 7 times table.

Again let me reiterate that I’m not suggesting we don’t teach these skills. Of course our children need to know basic skills. My point is do we need to test them under exam conditions. Honestly, seeing desks separated on the morning of a SATs test for a 10 year old, breaks my heart.

#5 What on earth are the standards anyway?

The goal posts have been moved. We are now teaching to a new curriculum that has skipped an academic year by the SATs fairy. So now Y2 should know what previous year’s Y3s knew.

Y6 are being presented with material that previously would have only be covered in Secondary School. So how ridiculous. The new curriculum expects too much of our children.

Then we test them. Ouch.

#6 Do we really need to know this?

Most adults have no idea what the SATs are asking  10 year olds to do! Have a look below:


How are your modal verbs, expanded noun phrases or relative clauses? Wouldn’t you just think the best thing to do would be to create a wonderful environment to encourage fabulous writing?  Mmmm…

The brilliant documentary ‘Class Of Mum and Dad’ on Channel 4 took parents back to a Y6 classroom. Day 1 a mum was in tears when faced with the challenging maths curriculum.

#7 We are setting up our children to fail

And so I come to my biggest and most hateful part of SATs. Our children with ADHD. A child with a neurological difference  will be hugely disadvantaged by SATs. Yes you may argue that she or he will always be faced with exams and if they want to get to university they need exams.

Well my answer is.. nonsense. University is not for everyone and anyway there are alternative routes to university which are non exam based. We need skilled workers in other fields that do not require exams.

Yet we set many of our children up to fail, feel rubbish and have low self-esteem from a very early age. 1 in 10 of our children will suffer from a mental health issue – is the route to low self-esteem bought about by feelings of worthlessness in the classroom?

Teachers are under enormous pressure to reach targets set by Heads and Governors. So pre-SATs there is practice, practice, practice. They haven’t got the energy for the disruptive lad with ADHD. So tempers are frayed and the outcome is more disruption and inappropriate behaviour. There are now fewer support staff employed to help out and so our  children are left feeling worthless, It’s a horrible situation. And so avoidable.

And what special provision has been put in place? Has your child been allowed extra time, movement breaks, a scribe or a reader, a small quiet room? As long as this is ‘usual working practice’ your child doesn’t need a diagnosis or EHCP to get this provision. It would be interesting to know how many schools have enabled these little tweaks.

And my conclusion:

Yes we need to teach our children the basics. We want them to compete on the world stage. But do we need to test them at such a young age? Everyone needs the basic academic skills to get through everyday life. My son found school very challenging and struggled with academia. But now as an adult he is able to work out money, read a timetable, search on the internet, google information and write an email.

He gained absolutely no benefit whatsoever from going through the SATs trials and tribulations.

We need to nurture creativity, independent thought and free thinkers. We need to value our inventors as much as our academics. Value our gymnasts as much as our doctors. Our dancers, gardeners, hairdressers, artists as much as our lawyers. 

As the wonderful @ADHDFoundation tweeted a few years ago:

“We are trapped in a system where passing high stakes standardised tests is the most important thing; where children are being turned into data – and used to make teachers accountable” at what cost to mental health? #morethanascore

We do not need to test our children to know what we already know.

Let our children be children.

So if you are in the unfortunate position of your child doing SATs next week, try these things:

Do not mention the SATs this weekend. Have fun instead

At the end of each day, let them choose their favourite meal or treat to go to after school

Make sure they know that they are not being judged – it is the teachers that are being pressured to perform

Let them know that the outcome of SATs will not affect their life chances

Hope that helps.










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