National tests that English pupils take in the last year of primary school do not appear to harm children’s happiness or well-being, according to a study by University College London.
As concerns grow about children’s mental health, parents and teachers have repeatedly highlighted the impact of key standardized Stage 2 math and English tests, known as Sats, on well-being at the end of the sixth year.
UCL researchers compared data from 2,500 children living in England – where students take tests – and Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – where they don’t – and found little difference in levels of well-being and happiness, whether they pass the tests or not.
Among those who completed the tests, the researchers found no significant changes in how they felt about themselves, school, or family life in the weeks before or after the Saturday. Almost a quarter (24%) of pupils in England said they felt unhappy with their schoolwork before the tests, compared to 28% of children elsewhere in the UK, and the figure has not changed from significantly at the time of testing.
Professor John Jerrim, one of the study’s authors, said: âThere is growing concern about the mental well-being of young people, including how this relates to national tests at school. However, the study found that children’s levels of happiness and well-being in England and the rest of the UK were very similar and often overlapped.
‘Research also found that there was little evidence of changes in well-being at the time of KS2 tests, or that children in England become happier, in general or at school, after these tests are completed. .
âTaken together, these results provide an important counterweight to conventional narratives about how KS2 testing can have serious negative effects on children’s well-being. “
The peer-reviewed study, published in Assessment in Education, suggests that while Sats tests may be “big stakes” for schools with results published in rankings, they are less so for children who make decisions. education about secondary school or subjects. they might study not depend on their scores.
Jerrim said: “Testing plays a fundamental role in feeding schools’ accountability indicators and our results suggest that they should continue in their current form for the foreseeable future.”
But teachers‘ unions stressed that UCL’s findings were based on data dating back to 2012 and therefore did not take into account a number of recent changes in primary assessment.
Kevin Courtney, co-secretary general of the National Education Union, which campaigned for the abolition of the Sats, said: âUnfortunately, researchers have drawn conclusions about the future of primary testing based on an analysis of the diet almost 10 years ago.
“Since then, the curriculum has been radically altered in a way that many experts at the time believed to be” fatally flawed “and” too prescriptive “with subject matter content that was characterized as endless lists of spelling and rules. . “