Two-thirds of teachers doubt reliability of this year’s SATs

Teachers are so concerned about ongoing disruption to children’s education, the transition to secondary school and the reliability of last month’s Key Stage 2 SATs that they are going to extraordinary lengths to plug gaps in learning and skills, according to a new survey.

The study of more than 1,000 teachers found that three-quarters of teachers (75%) are worried that incoming Year 7 students will be unprepared academically, while almost four-fifths (79%) are concerned that they won’t be ready emotionally or socially for secondary school. The sample was evenly split between primary and secondary teachers.

The majority are particularly concerned about those children’s basic classroom skills (60% of respondents), behaviour (54%), and reading and literacy skills (52%). And significant minorities think pupil confidence (39%) and numeracy skills (38%) have also been affected. A boy doing a maths test

As a result, most schools (71%) are putting in place an extraordinary programme of measures to address gaps in learning and basic classroom skills, says the formative assessments provider GL Assessment who commissioned the research.

Just under a half of teachers (46%) say their schools are planning to offer more pastoral or emotional support, a third (33%) plan to implement a more comprehensive reading programme and a quarter (26%) aim to broaden the curriculum to plug any gaps in students’ knowledge.

Additional measures involve devoting more time to developing classroom skills (cited by 24% of teachers) and numeracy skills (22%) as well as putting on additional early morning or after-school classes (20%). 

Teachers overwhelmingly think that disruption to the education system will affect children’s performance in this year’s Key Stage 2 SATs and make the results less reliable. Two-thirds (65%) think this year’s SATs will be less reliable than in pre-pandemic years and four-fifths (82%) say pupil performance will be affected by the disruption caused by serial lockdowns. Only one in five (19%) think this year’s results will be as reliable as before.

Primary teachers are even more concerned than secondary school teachers – 71% of the former think SATs will be less reliable this year compared to 58% of their colleagues in secondary schools, and 88% of them think pupil performance will be affected (versus 77% of the secondary school teachers).

So concerned are school leaders, that a fifth of them (20%) are considering drafting in specialist or primary expertise to help students tackle any learning needs. If anything, school leaders are even more worried – they tended to register higher concerns on all issues than more junior colleagues.    

Geoff Barton, ASCL General Secretary, said: “The research findings show that school leaders and teachers, in both phases, have deep concerns for pupils making the transition this year, both in terms of the impact of the disruption to their learning and their emotional and social preparedness. This reflects what our own members have been telling us, particularly in relation to the pastoral support that leaders are finding huge demand for across all key stages.

“But the findings also highlight the work that schools and trusts are proactively doing to address many of these issues with the cohort transitioning this summer. It illustrates the determination leaders and teachers have for ensuring that these children have the best possible start to their secondary education.”

Graeme Duncan, Chief Executive of the charity Right to Succeed, said: “In this post-pandemic era, now more than ever schools need to collaborate to meet the increasing cognitive, social and emotional needs of children and young people. We’ve seen amazing results when schools work collectively on key themes such as literacy, inclusion and wellbeing in places like Blackpool and North Birkenhead. To support this collective working, a shared measurement framework like those offered by GL Assessment can help to understand where the needs are, demonstrate impact and help schools in better supporting their children and young people.”

Crispin Chatterton, Director of Education at GL Assessment, said: “Schools are going above and beyond to tackle any lingering consequences of the pandemic. But we shouldn’t be under any illusions that this year’s transition to secondary school will be anything other than extraordinarily challenging for many students and teachers.

“Most schools have moved swiftly to bring in additional support where they can. And if there are issues – from gaps in student literacy and numeracy to worries over children’s emotional resilience and classroom skills – schools can use standardised assessment to understand the needs of the new cohort and spot which children might need additional support quickly and reliably.”

Teachers can find out more on GL Assessment’s dedicated website – ‘The Transition Conversation’ – from 13 June 2022: www.reports.gl-assessment.co.uk/the-transition-conversation

YouGov surveyed 1,006 primary and secondary school teachers in England online for GL Assessment. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14-26 April 2022.