Should Primary School Children be Tested?

I was recently made aware that next year, our children, who are in year two of primary school will be doing their SATs or National Tests as they’re now know.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.

Our girls will be seven when they take their SATs, and although many people have said not to worry about them or the results, I can’t help but worry.

Some argue that testing children at such a young age is good because it’s preparing them for tests they’ll take when they’re older, whilst others argue that the tests are purely for the schools advantage in terms of meeting targets.

What I do know though is that when our children do sit these tests, I’ll be telling them to try their best, as that’s all they can do, but not to worry about the results.


I was curious to see how other parents feel about these tests, so I asked some blogging friends for their opinions. Here’s what they had to say:

Emma who blogs at Even Angels Fall says: My son did them last school year and he didn’t even know he had done a test. They are so relaxed about them and I felt the whole thing had been vastly blown out of proportion, although I understand that perhaps different schools handle it differently. For us it was absolutely fine and I have no issue with my daughter doing them next year either.

Kate who blogs at Counting to Ten says:  My eldest daughter is doing them this year and the school has spoken to us already about them. They referred to them as “Special Agent Tests” and say that they try and keep it all as light as possible. When they are not in the actual test the rest of the class works on making things for the social enterprise project so that tends to be their lasting memory of the time.
Given there is such a long road of tests in front of them I think it’s a good idea to introduce them to the concept in a gentle way as possible so they are less scared when they get to the Year 6 tests.

Stacy who blogs at Mom of Two says:  I can only go off when I had to do them myself as my children aren’t old enough yet. When I did them, you definitely knew you were being tested and was made to feel like you had to do well or else. However, saying that, I believe they are so important to 1) teach children the exam setting and 2) help the teachers see where they need extra help. 

Mandi who blogs at Big Family Organised Chaos says: I think it depends on how the school approaches it, and the individual child, our school was quite relaxed about it, but it did make some of the children extremely anxious, our sixth child was exempt from the tests as he is not at the required level, but our other children who have taken them didn’t seem fazed by them and it is a good practice run for the year 6 tests plus the exams going forward.

Becky who blogs at A Beautiful Space says: My kids took them in their stride as the school didn’t make a fuss and neither did we – they were pretty used to tests for spelling etc so these did not seem a big deal to them.

Kirsty who blogs at The Money Saving Mum says: Mine did them last year too and although I hated the fact they were doing ‘tests’ at such a young age for no ones benefit that the school I cannot fault the way our school handled it. They didn’t know they were doing tests as they called it Secret Agent Tasks (SATs) and the kids loved it! The teachers were very relaxed about it when we spoke to them about it too.

Georgina who blogs at Gee Gardner says: I home educate my eldest and I think these tests are completely unnecessary. School at that age should be about making things fun not worrying about percentages and ticking boxes. As Albert Einstein said “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Sinead who blogs at Sinead Latham says: I find our whole Early Years quite antiquated. While I won’t stop my son taking the tests, if I feel the school are pressuring him (and his classmates) I will step in. If we could look towards the Scandinavian nations and adopt some of their practices (no formal learning until 7 being the biggest), I think we would be setting up our children for success in a more positive way, both at school and in the big wide world.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

22 thoughts on “Should Primary School Children be Tested?

  1. 2 of my children are in secondary school (1 in her first year of GCSEs). When they did SATs (Y2 and Y6) they were fine. The school they went to took them seriously, especially in Y6 – but they also treat them like princes and princess during that week with hot chocolate, buttery toast and other treats. They also then go out fo the afternoon on the last day as a treat. You younger two have more recently done Y2 SATs. No issues with knowing where your children are at. However, one is the oldest in her year, the other one of the youngest. At that age, when in the school year you are born DOES make a difference and SATs take no account of that. They also don’t test, dance, sport, art, craft, empathy, and all the other things that make our children who they are fantastic.

    Once at secondary school though they best get used to test, they are a daily occurrence, some more formal than others. It’s just a fact of the UK education system now. Test means level, levels means data, data mean league tables, league tables, mean more incoming students, that leads to more funding.

    Here’s a quote from children’s author Michael Rosen:
    “First, they said they needed data about the children to find out what they’re learning. Then They said they needed data about the children to make sure they’re learning. Then the children only learnt what could be turned into data. Then the children became data.”


  2. A very tricky subject indeed. I recently found out that some reception years are even doing tests (nothing as formal as KS3, but not far off).

    At 5 years old I’m not sure they can even sit still that long! Feels like with league tables now the pre determined factor of ‘success’ that schools are adopting more and more aggressive testing, more constantly, to keep or improve their positions.


  3. omg secret agent tasks is such a fab way of adding fun to what can be a stressful time. I quite liked that the kids got tested from early on. I figured it was a good way of getting them used to it. I remember how terribly nervous I was doing end of year exams as a teen. Hopefully exams are a bit more routine for this generation xx

  4. Over here in Ireland, any tests later on in Primary School are to help the secondary school to assign kids to the appropriate stream. Except it’s not a stream as such in that the ability levels are mixed, and it’s about getting that mix right. So I would see it as a positive thing, and it hasn’t been an issue for our two

  5. I do think we need to test children to ensure that they are keeping to the standards, but that it shouldn’t be a stressful thing for the children to do. #ThatFridayLinky

  6. Tests are important, I’m having trouble with mine saying she’s “not a good rememberer” – tests, taken sympathetically, will help to show her that she can and does remember – and hopefully derail this potentially self-fulfilling prophecy.

    As has been stated above, it will also help the teachers identify students who need additional help – either with the learning itself, or with the test environment. We are and will be tested our entire lives, what we have to learn ourselves is to take the right tests, and to apply the right tests to others.

    For more from a different angle, I’ve written about how to raise smarter kids over at

  7. I’m in the US. I’m not a fan of standardized testing because each kid learns differently and those tests don’t reflect that. Testing does help show where some kids may need extra help, and that is okay. I just don’t like the added stress on students.

  8. For me that’s way too young for tests. Good God sure they car hardly keep their focus on things that interest them at that age, let alone do exams! In Ireland there are no exams in Primary School (my eldest is 6 & in 1st class, her 3rd year of primary school) – or at least none that I know off.

    In fact, there is a now an increase in calls for children in Primary school not have homework at all as it is argued that it causes unnecessary level of stress for the children from a young age when they should be outside playing, having fun and you know, being a kid!

  9. As a teacher of 1st grade for 16 years….I think the tests are a small picture into the whole child. They can give you a glimpse as to the the overall child. They are not the end all. They have their place but I don’t put a lot of stock in them. #thatfridaylinky

  10. As a teacher I say they are a load of balls! Honestly. They tell me nothing about the child that I didn’t know already and that I could report on. Why do they need to take a test at aged 7? Crazy. I love that so many parents have commented that their child’s school keeps it low key as that is the best way. If you asked teachers, I expect they would not want them! Tests are ruining our children’s primary education but that’s another blog post…..! #thatfridalinky

  11. I personally feel that kids are put under too much pressure to hit targets and as it is important to have high expectations, i do feel expectations are too high! With some children not being able to achieve and experiencing low self esteem and self confidence #ThatFridayLinky

  12. Here in the U.S. our kids do them every year starting in 3rd grade. It wasn’t a problem for my kids until last year when my son was in 6th grade. He refused to go to school most days due to the testing. I’ve never made a big deal about testing. I don’t care how well he does as he has special needs and he isn’t going to do well on a traditional test. Now he has extreme testing anxiety.

  13. I love the wAy some of schools seem to approach secret agent should take the pressure of it. Interesting to read the varying opinions on it #thatfridaylinky

  14. I think that testing can be an important part of identifying children that may need extra help down the road, but here in the States government money is tied to testing results, which is ridiculous #thatfridaylinky

  15. When I first heard that children in year 2 were taking SATS I thought what absolute nonsense. In a world where we know how tests can affect the mental health of children to put them under unnecessary stress was ridiculous. However I was comparing them to the SATS structure I remember of being in Year 6 but I have since learned that it is much more relaxed, or certainly my niece’s were. Where they have biscuits and milk and if showed signs of stress they could take a break. It’s good to know that they are making it laid back for children. If they use the results to tailor learning for the individual then it could be a good thing but I fear it is a way for schools to see how they are performing, not about the students. #ThatFridayLinky

  16. We’re not at primary school yet so I don’t know a great deal about SATs, but it seems like the key thing is how the school approaches them. It does seem a very young age to be having any kind of test though. #thatfridaylinky

  17. Agree most with Mandi, it depends on how the school does it. It’s important the kids that age don’t feel pressure to perform and don’t feel judged and self-valued by their test outcomes, but by how they try. Interesting debate! Will have to wait till mine is old enough to know more #thayfridaylinky

  18. As a home educator, I should probably not get over involved in this one. What I would say is that it was great fun to sit in a wigwam with my daughter outdoors reading books on the day her peers were doing SATS. Felt very liberating! Exams and tests can never define us – always just a picture of one day really. #ThatFridayLinky

  19. I believe its all a little different here is Oz to there in the UK, I suppose there are pros and cons to both testing and not testing. I think so long as there is no pressure, and schools keep it fun…

  20. My son did them and my daughter will do them next year. I think they are good for preparing children for the future but it is a bit young. It can show ares for them to focus on for development and help the school to help them. I don’t like the way league tables work and don’t give a narrative for results. #thatfridaylinky

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