Year 6 SATs exams to be looked into by schools minister with children in tears over difficulty level of paper

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Parents, teachers and unions have raised concerns over Year 6 SATs exams being too difficult after some teachers were unable to understand the questions.

Year 6 SATs exams are to be looked into by the schools minister following concerns from parents and teachers that the papers were too difficult. Schools minister Nick Gibb said SATs for students aged 10 and 11 should not be too hard after some were left crying over last week’s exams and some teachers could not understand the questions.

Nick Gibb said that exams should not be “too hard” as that is “not the purpose” of assessing children. The news comes after a surge of complaints from parents and teachers were made about last week’s reading exam.

A union said that staff struggled “to understand the questions”. Mr Gibb said that he had not seen the paper yet but would look at it when it becomes available next week when he was asked about concerns over the test’s difficulty.

He added: "The Standards and Testing Agency have tested this test before in tests before the pandemic, they tested it last year with a large group of children, they monitored the response of those children to the test, to the questions, they found that 85% enjoy taking the test.

"But we will look at this. I will certainly look at this because I know that there has been concerns expressed by some schools."

What are SATs exams in England?

SATs stand for Standard Assessment Tests and measure children’s English and maths skills in Year 2 and Year 6. They consist of six 45-minute papers.

Complaints over SATs

Complaints have been made by parents, teachers and union staff after the reading paper last week. The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) expressed concerns over the paper and plans to raise the issue with exams regulator Ofqual and the Standards and Testing Agency.

The union’s head of policy, Sarah Hannafin, said members had reported the difficulty of the reading paper was “beyond previous tests”. Kerry Forrester, a headteacher from a Cheshire primary school, raised concerns over the “negative impact” of SATs exams on the “mental health” of her pupils – some of whom were reduced to tears.

Teachers left “very anxious” over negative impact of SATs

Mr Gibb said the exams should not be “too hard for children” but should instead test “a range of ability” to show which children are exceeding the standard when speaking to reporters on Monday – adding it was “not the purpose” of exams to be too difficult.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) welcomed a look at the unions’ concerns by the schools minister. He said: "We've received a lot of feedback that this paper was unnecessarily difficult and that it left children distressed and teachers very anxious about the impact on their pupils.

"Key Stage 2 tests are not supposed to be some sort of gruelling rite of passage, but an accountability measure to check on attainment at the end of Key Stage 2."

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