Key stage 1 SATs paper plan a ‘breathtaking waste of money’

Schools will receive test papers unless they opt out, despite the assessments being non-statutory from this year

Schools will receive test papers unless they opt out, despite the assessments being non-statutory from this year

Plans to send key stage 1 SATs papers to schools unless they opt out have been branded a “breathtaking waste of money”.

Leaders have demanded an explanation after the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) said it would continue to produce and send schools “optional” SATs materials for seven-year-olds, despite the tests becoming non-statutory this year.

Schools that don’t want to receive them have to opt out by November 17.

Sarah Hannafin, the head of policy at the school leaders’ union NAHT, told Schools Week the approach was “a breathtaking waste of money from a government that has so often told schools to make efficiency savings.

Sarah Hannafin
Sarah Hannafin

“It’s cash that would be much better directly spent on children’s education by providing much-needed financial support to schools still struggling to make ends meet after a decade of government under-investment.”

Annual accounts for the STA do not provide costs broken down by test series.

The agency is also responsible for key stage 2 SATs, the reception baseline assessment, phonics screening check and times tables test.

Overall, the agency spent £5.5 million on print, logistics and system maintenance, £21.7 million on test delivery and £5.2 million on test research and development last year.

SATs and the phonics check are currently delivered by outsourcing giant Capita under an £18 million-a-year contract.

This suggests the cost of continuing to develop and send out key stage 1 materials could run into the millions.

‘Unnecessary environmental impact’

Hannifin said sending the papers would “also have a completely unnecessary environmental impact”.

“We urge the government to explain why it has taken this decision and set out how much it is costing.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said it had committed to “continue to make key stage 1 tests available for use by schools on an optional basis to support classroom practice”.

But the department refused to say how much it expected the initiative to cost.

In an email to schools, the STA said it would send standard versions of reading, grammar, punctuation and spelling and maths tests unless they opted out.

The aim was “to give schools access to test papers to assist the measurement of pupil achievement and to help identify where pupils need additional support as they transition into key stage 2”. 

The government “encourages schools to administer the optional tests and teacher assessments”, but the results do not have to be reported to their council, the government or parents.

Schools that do not use the optional tests and teacher assessments also “do not have to report this to STA”.

Quantities will be based on census data, and schools can order modified papers by November 17.

Schools will receive the papers between April 22 and 26 next year, and can decide when after that to administer them, though the DfE is recommending they take place in May.

Schools will not be able to “decline individual subjects”. But those that decline physical test papers will still be able to download materials, with mark schemes from the government gateway from May 1.

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