Sunday, 28 May 2023

Schools minister vows to probe SATs exam that left kids 'in tears'

Schools minister vows to probe SATs exam that left 10 and 11-year-old’s ‘in tears’ and was so hard that staff failed ‘to understand the questions’

  • Hundreds of parents and teachers complained about last Wednesday’s exam
  • Schools minister Nick Gibb said the tests shouldn’t be ‘too hard for children’

The Government will examine a SATs exam after parents complained it was too hard.

Schools minister Nick Gibb has pledged to ‘look at’ the Year 6 reading paper amid claims it reduced some pupils to tears.

Hundreds of parents and teachers complained that last Wednesday’s exam for ten and 11-year-olds was too difficult. Schools said it was so tricky that even staff failed ‘to understand the questions’.

And that the English reading test included ‘GCSE-level’ questions, with even high-ability pupils unable to finish the paper.

Mr Gibb said the tests shouldn’t be ‘too hard for children’ and vowed to inspect the paper.

Schools minister Nick Gibb has pledged to ‘look at’ the Year 6 reading paper amid claims it reduced some pupils to tears (File Photo)

‘I’ve not seen the paper yet, I’ll look at it next week when it’s available,’ he said.

‘The Standards and Testing Agency have tested this assessment 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 per cent enjoy taking the test.

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

‘We don’t want these tests to be too hard for children. That’s not the purpose. The purpose is to test the range of ability.’ SATs, or Standard Assessment Tests, are used to measure children’s English and maths skills in Year 2 and Year 6 and consist of six 45-minute papers. Analysis by the Times Educational Supplement of the controversial Year 6 test showed pupils were required to read 2,106 words across three texts – around a third more than last year’s 1,564 words.

Hundreds of parents and teachers complained that last Wednesday’s exam for ten and 11-year-olds was too difficult. Schools said it was so tricky that even staff failed ‘to understand the questions’ (Stock image)

Based on Department for Education guidelines that a Key Stage 2 Sats pupil is expected to be able to read a minimum of 90 words a minute, it means reading the booklet alone would take 23 minutes and 30 seconds.

The Department for Education defended the exam that sparked outrage last week, saying ‘the tests are designed to be challenging’.

The National Association of Head Teachers, which represents heads at the majority of primary schools said it planned to complain to Ofqual, the exams regulator.

Sarah Hannafin, from the union, said: ‘Members have told us that the choice of texts was not accessible for the wide range of experiences and backgrounds children have and the difficulty was beyond previous tests, leaving children upset, and even staff struggling to understand the questions.’

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