Jeremy Corbyn reveals Labour would scrap ‘high-stress’ primary school Sats tests

Posted On: 
16th April 2019

A Labour government would abolish "high-stakes and high-stress" primary school tests and replace them with assessments that are tailored to individuals, Jeremy Corbyn has announced.

Jeremy Corbyn
PA Images

The party leader branded Sats, which are taken by seven-year-olds and eleven-year-olds in England, a “regime of extreme pressure testing” which leave some pupils “vomiting through worry”.

The announcement comes after teachers voted in favour of a motion to ballot primary staff for a boycott of all high-stakes testing, after a debate at the National Education Union conference.

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Addressing delegates at the Liverpool event, Mr Corbyn committed Labour to consulting with teachers and parents to develop a “more flexible and practical system of assessment”.

“We need to prepare children for life, not just for exams,” he said.

“Sats and the regime of extreme pressure testing are giving young children nightmares and leaving them in floods of tears.

“I meet teachers of all ages and backgrounds who are totally overworked and overstressed. These are dedicated public servants. It’s just wrong.”

Mr Corbyn argued that axing the exams would relieve pressure on teachers having to deal with overcrowded classrooms, funding cuts, and a “crisis” in recruitment and retention.

“Teachers get into the profession because they want to inspire children, not pass them along an assembly line,” he added.

“We will raise standards by freeing up teachers to teach. Labour trusts teachers. You are professionals. You know your job. You know your students.”

The opposition leader said his proposed system would look to “understand the learning needs of each child” and “encourage a broad curriculum aimed at a rounded education”.

He continued: “When children have a rich and varied curriculum, when they’re encouraged to be creative, to develop their imagination, then there’s evidence that they do better at the core elements of literacy and numeracy too.”


Dr Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said Mr Corbyn “recognises the damage” the system is doing.

“The NEU has long advocated an assessment system that has the trust of teachers and school communities – one that will support children’s learning and raise standards of attainment in our schools," she said.

“We look forward to the return of a broad and balanced primary curriculum and to the rekindling of the spirit of creativity in our schools.

“We welcome Labour’s commitment to work with the profession in order to develop these ground-breaking policies further.”

But Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, defended the tests as having been "pivotal in raising standards", from when they were brought in in the 1990s.

"Abolishing these tests would be a terrible, retrograde step. It would enormously damage our education system, and undo decades of improvement in children’s reading and maths," he said.

"Labour plan to keep parents in the dark. They will prevent parents from knowing how good their child’s school is at teaching maths, reading and writing.

"Under Labour, the government would simply give up on ensuring all our children can read and write by the age of 11."