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Headteachers demand next year’s SATs exams are scrapped due to ‘unfair’ COVID disruption

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Headteachers have called on ministers to cancel next year’s SATs exams because of the ongoing disruption to education caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Heads told the annual conference of the NAHT school leaders’ union that holding “ridiculous and pointless” tests in 2022 would be “unfair” due to COVID-19 absences.

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Sats exams for Year 6 pupils were cancelled for a second year in a row this summer
Image: SATs exams for Year 6 pupils were cancelled for a second year in a row this summer

Delegates heard from several school leaders before they voted on and passed a motion calling on the national executive to lobby the government to abandon all primary school statutory tests in 2022.

Michelle Sheehy, head of Millfield Primary School in Walsall, said: “Our current Year Six children all had hugely different experiences during the previous school year and the differences continue today.”

She added: “If data from the SATs is being used to compare schools, it is desperately unfair. The SATs quite simply are not fit to be used for accountability purposes.

“If, as the minister for schools said, ‘this is their only purpose’, then why would we be wasting time administering costly and pointless tests?”

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Speaking at the union’s conference in London on Saturday, Ms Sheehy said: “How many of our schools have been unaffected by COVID-19 this term? Very few I would think.”

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SATs exams for Year 6 pupils, which are used to compare schools’ performance, were cancelled for a second year in a row this summer.

The government has said it intends to run statutory exams in summer 2022.

Emily Proffitt, head of Cooper Perry Primary School near Stafford, told the conference: “In Stafford at the moment, we see the highest levels of COVID-19 reoccurring across the country and all of our schools are back into full measures that we saw pre-September.

“How on earth can all children be expected to be put through these ridiculous assessments and milestones when we are back to the measures that we saw last year? SATs have to be reviewed this year.”

She added: “It’s not effective, it is not right for our children, and we need to look at this seriously.”

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Keith Wright, a delegate at the conference, added: “My children have been in, out, in, out, sometimes shaken all about with high temperatures.

“They haven’t quite done the Hokey Cokey, but I tell you what, if we turn it around, because that’s what it is all about, we don’t need the SATs.”

Unions are also calling for stronger safety measures in schools as cases rise, with some 270,000 secondary pupils estimated to have been infected last week.

The education secretary has indicated that masks could be reintroduced, but told Sky News earlier this week that bubbles would not be making a comeback as the NHS rolls out vaccines to children as young as 12.