Spotlight on the NUT donation:“Miss, the rabbit ate the ‘floating ‘apple! The case against SATs. A Report on the 1991 Key Stage 1 SATs by the National Union of Teachers.”

Last winter we received a wonderful donation from the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which included 380 pamphlet boxes containing material published by the NUT itself and many other organisations operating in the areas of education, children and families.

Over the last year, we have checked and sorted these resources, discovering many interesting publications during the process. Among these, we have picked a few ‘gems’ and decided to share what we have learnt about each one. Today is the turn of:

 “Miss, the rabbit ate the ‘floating ‘apple! The case against SATs. A Report on the 1991 Key Stage 1 SATs by the National Union of Teachers.”

This report on SATs was published following the introduction of a National Curriculum to schools in England and Wales under the Education Reform Act 1988. The curriculum was rolled out from 1989 and the statutory assessments were introduced between 1991 and 1995. Only the core subjects of English, Mathematics and Science were to be assessed. First assessments at Key Stage 1 (Year 2 children aged 6/7) were a range of cross-curricular tasks to be delivered in the classroom, known as Standardised Assessment Tasks – hence the common acronym SATs.

After the 1991 ’full trial’ of the SATs, the NUT wanted to find out about teachers’ experiences of running the tests. A questionnaire was included in the Union’s National Curriculum Newsletter which was sent to every school. Replies were received from 2550 teachers in 1750 schools (not all of whom were members of NUT). The survey was designed to create as little extra work for Year 2 teachers as possible and consisted mainly of Yes/No answers and/or ticks in boxes. However detailed visits were paid to 13 schools whilst they were administering the SATs. Many teachers also submitted comprehensive written comments.

NUT recognised that the teachers had worked hard to give the SATs a fair trial. Teachers wanted their experiences to be noted, and hopefully acted upon, so that future teachers of Year 2 pupils would not have to use unworkable forms of assessment.

The questions were designed to understand more about how much classroom time SATs took to administer and whether it was possible for the SATs to be conducted by a single teacher working alone. In addition related questions were asked about the cost of conducting the SATs, the perceived impact on pupils and parents and, perhaps most importantly “Were the SATs worth doing?”

The main findings of the report concluded that:

  • The average time needed to complete the SATs was 52 hours rather than the government assessment of 30 hours
  • 95% of teachers reported that SATs told them nothing about pupils that they did not already know
  • More than 90% of the teachers said that the SATs prevented normal activities in Year 2 or other classes. In combination with the reallocation of teacher and ancillary staff within schools this indicates that the SATs have caused massive disruption of schools.
  • The SATs did not meet the requirement that they be suitable for a” single teacher working alone”. Nine out of 10 teachers had extra help allocated to them to enable them to conduct the SATs. Three quarters of that support was taken away from other school activities or other classes; the remainder being bought in.
  • The SATs were unsuitable for bilingual pupils, pupils with learning difficulties and pupils with special needs.


The overwhelming conclusion reached by the respondents to the survey was that SATs had been difficult to operate in the classroom and were not highly valued by teachers as adding to their knowledge of their pupils.

Teachers wanted changes to be made to the national assessment system and wanted to be involved in designing an alternative that would “better meet the needs of pupils, supports teachers in planning their future teaching, and provides meaningful information to parents and future teachers”.

Changes were made to the original SATs which were replaced by more formal tasks with an additional strand of Teacher Assessment. Over the years adjustments have been made to reflect changes in the National Curriculum. In 2008 it was announced that the testing at Key Stage 3 was to be scrapped. A new version of the National Curriculum was introduced into schools in 2014. SATs are still a highly controversial subject and a subject of a long running campaign by NUT.

Over 2,300 members responded to the NUT survey on the experience of primary assessment in 2017. The results were presented in the report Summer Term 2017 The SATs effect: teachers’ verdict

Once again the whole experience is generally regarded as a negative one:

“The results showed the damaging impact that the system of assessment for school accountability purposes is having on teachers, schools and children. This is particularly exacerbated by the funding crisis currently facing schools”.

However the NUT did present an alternative in its publication of More than a score. Assessment: the alternative

The SATs have been a much discussed topic from the outset and this report “Miss, the rabbit ate the ‘floating ‘apple!” gives us an insight to the roots of a controversy that is still the subject of much debate and argument.

This item, like all the others included in this donation, is currently uncatalogued, although this will be the next step in our project. In the meantime, if you’d like to find out more about the contents of the donation, please check our LibGuide.






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