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Minister to look at tests that left pupils in ‘tears’

Concerns have been raised that Sats exams were too difficult  (PA Archive)
Concerns have been raised that Sats exams were too difficult (PA Archive)

The schools minister on Tuesday said he will look at concerns that last week’s Sats exams were too difficult amid claims that a paper left some Year 6 pupils in “tears”.

Nick Gibb said he does not want the exams which are taken by 10 and 11-year-olds in England to be “too hard” as that is “not the purpose” of the assessment.

Hundreds of parents and teachers complained that last week’s reading exam was too difficult and a headteachers’ union said some staff also struggled “to understand the questions”.

When asked about parents’ concerns over the difficulty of Sats, Mr Gibb said: “I’ve not seen the paper yet. I’ll look at it next week when it’s available.”

He added: “The Standards and Testing Agency have tested this test before the pandemic. They tested it last year with a large group of children … they found that 85 per cent enjoy taking the test.

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

The Department for Education previously said the “tests are designed to be challenging” to measure attainment across the ability range.

Standard Assessment Tests, known as Sats, 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 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 the reading paper “was beyond previous tests”, left children upset and some staff struggled to understand the questions.

Meanwhile, England has been ranked fourth out of 43 countries in an international league table showing how well primary school children can read.

Despite disruption caused by the pandemic, England has improved from its previous ranking of eighth in 2016. The latest Progress in International Reading Literacy Study put Singapore top.

It comes after the Evening Standard’s Get London Reading campaign highlighted the importance of boosting reading in the capital.