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SATs, or national curriculum assessments

SATs, or national curriculum assessments, are assessments of primary pupils’ progress and attainment. They are currently completed at the end of key stage one (infant phase) and key stage two (end of primary/ junior phase). 2022/23 is the last year of statutory assessment at the end of key stage one. Key stage two SATs will continue.

At key stage two, the tests are more formal and school-level results are normally published in national performance tables allowing for comparison with other schools. These are often known as league tables.

SATs cover core academic subjects – English, maths, and science.

SATs during the coronavirus pandemic

There were no national curriculum assessments at either key stage one or key stage two in the 2019/20 or 2020/21 academic years, because of the pandemic.

The assessments – for both key stage one and key stage two pupils – took place as normal in the 2021/22 academic year, although school-level performance data hasn’t been published for this year.

Phonics screening check

Children in year one, which is usually the second year of primary education, also take a phonics screen to check their ability to decode words. They complete the screen again in year two if they don’t reach the expected standard in year one.

New times table check in year four

Since the 2021/22 academic year, all qualifying schools have administered an online multiplication tables check for children in year four (normally aged eight or nine). This tests recall of times tables up to 12.

A new statutory baseline assessment in reception class: September 2021

Children in state-funded primary and infant schools now take a new baseline assessment within the first six weeks of entering reception class. This focuses on maths, language, communication and literacy. The results will be used as the starting point to assess how much progress schools are making with their pupils. Results for individual children or schools are not published.

Target for 90% of key stage two pupils to meet expected standards

In its January 2022 white paper, Levelling Up the United Kingdom, the Government announced an ambition for 90% of key stage two pupils to reach the expected standards in reading, writing and mathematics by 2030, and for the proportion meeting the expected standard in the “worst performing areas” to improve by a third. The 90% target was also restated in the March 2022 schools white paper, Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child.

The Department for Education has released provisional national and local authority-level statistics for 2021/22. This cohort have had their learning significantly disrupted by the pandemic. 59% of pupils reached the expected standard in all of reading, writing and maths, down from 65% in the 2018/19 academic year.

The DfE measures the comparative attainment of disadvantaged children and their peers, using its own disadvantage gap index. In 2021/22, provisional data show the disadvantage gap, as measured by the index, increased significantly, for the first time since 2010/11. It is now around the same as it was in 2011/12.

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