The schools minister has said he will look into concerns that last week’s SATs exams were too difficult after claims that a paper left some Year 6 pupils in “tears”.
Nick Gibb said he does not want the tests, which are taken by 10 and 11-year-olds in England, to be “too hard” as that is “not the purpose” of the assessment.
It comes after a flood of complaints from parents and teachers about last week’s reading exam, with a union saying even staff struggled “to understand the questions”.
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When asked about concerns about the difficulty of tests, Mr Gibb said he had not seen the paper yet but would look at it when it becomes available next week.
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.”
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.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has expressed concerns over last week’s reading paper and said it plans to raise the issue with exams regulator Ofqual and the Standards and Testing Agency.
Sarah Hannafin, the union’s head of policy, said members had reported that the difficulty of reading the paper “was beyond previous tests”, left children upset, and some staff struggled to understand the questions.
Kerry Forrester, a headteacher at a Cheshire primary school, expressed concern about the “negative impact” of the SATs exams on the “mental health” of her pupils and she said some were reduced to tears.
Last Friday, the Department for Education defended the tests, saying they are “designed to be challenging” to measure attainment across the ability range.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Mr Gibb said the exams do have to test “a range of ability” to show what proportion of children are exceeding the standard.
“But we don’t want these tests to be too hard for children. That’s not the purpose,” he added.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), welcomed the minister’s commitment to look at unions’ concerns.
He added: “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 grueling rite of passage, but an accountability measure to check on attainment at the end of Key Stage 2.”