Are Year 6 SATs Compulsory?

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The SATs (also known as the national curriculum tests) are the first major examinations young students have to sit in their early education. As such, there can be many anxieties around them, for both students and parents alike – one of them being whether or not the Year 6 SATs are mandatory. Are these key examinations compulsory for Year 6 students?

If a student attends a state-funded primary school, then yes, the national curriculum tests (SATs) are compulsory. On the other hand, if a student attends a private primary school, then no, the national curriculum tests are not compulsory. Private schools can choose whether or not to offer the SATs, however, only 20% of UK private schools do. Any state school (primary) is required by the government to administer the SATs.

This article has all the important information on whether the Year 6 SATs are compulsory or not, so keep reading for more!

Do all students have to sit the Year 6 SATs?

Yes, Year 6 SATs are compulsory for students in their final year of primary school. As stated on the government website, “If you have a child in year 6, at the end of key stage 2, they will take national curriculum tests in English grammar, punctuation and spelling, English reading and mathematics.”

Essentially, this means that it is required by the government for students in state funded schools to sit the national curriculum tests (SATs). You can read more about the SATs on the government website, linked here.

If a student is absent for whatever reason on the day or over several days of the SATs, they will still be required to sit their exams.

I’ll be talking about this later in the article, so keep reading for more! However, if you aren’t really sure what SATs are, it may be useful to check out this article from Think Student first!

Do all schools do Year 6 SATs?

This may come as a surprise, but not all schools in the UK take part in the national curriculum tests! As mentioned previously in this article, SATs are compulsory for all state-funded schools. All students in state primary schools will sit their SATs at the end of Year 6.

However, independent primary schools are not officially required to take part in the SATs. Independent schools may choose to administer the national curriculum tests, but they do not have to.

This does not mean that children in private education won’t be tested or assessed for their academic abilities, it just means that they don’t have to do this via the national curriculum tests.

For more information, check out this Think Student article on whether private schools take the SATs.

How many schools in the UK do Year 6 SATs?

According to the Local Government Association, linked here, there are 16,783 state-funded primary schools in the UK as of 2023.

This means that there are at least 16,783 primary schools at which it is compulsory to complete the national curriculum tests. However, the number of UK independent schools that offer SATs is very different.

As reported by SATs Papers, “approximately 20% of private schools choose to include SATs tests as a means of assessment to support their own curriculum.” You can read more about this on the SATs Papers website, linked here.

There are only around 2,500 private schools (both primary and secondary combined), so the number of private schools that do not do the SATs is very small, even though only 20% of them offer SATs.

Do the majority of schools offer Year 6 SATs?

Yes, the majority of schools offer the Year 6 SATs. As we’ve discussed already in this article, at the vast majority of primary schools in the UK (which are state schools), the national curriculum tests are compulsory.

If a student is in private education, however, the answer is the opposite: the majority of (private) schools will not offer SATs results.

Out of all primary schools in the UK, the majority of them will offer the SATs or are required to offer SATs to Year 6 students.

Even though 80% of private primary schools do not administer the SATs, the number of primary schools that are private in the UK is very small. Therefore, this doesn’t affect the majority significantly.

When are the Year 6 SATs?

The SATs are held at different times every year, but are typically held around early to mid May. I’d recommend checking out this Think Student article if you want to know when the Year 6 SATs are held.

For the academic year 2023-2024, the SATs will take place from Monday 13th May 2024 to Thursday 16th May 2024. 

The list below shows which papers are to be sat on which dates:

  • Monday 13th May 2024 – English grammar, punctuation and spelling papers 1 and 2
  • Tuesday 14th May 2024 – English reading paper
  • Wednesday 15th May 2024 – Mathematics papers 1 and 2
  • Thursday 16th May 2024 – Mathematics paper 3

For further information on the dates of the Year 6 SATs, check out this page of the government website.

Do SATs matter in Year 6?

The national curriculum tests (SATs) are important for almost everyone involved: they are most important for the students who sit them, but also for primary and secondary schools.

SATs are important for students because it helps to make sure they are at their expected levels for literacy and numeracy. SATs also matter for secondary schools, because it means that they know how to streamline students into sets ahead of their arrival at secondary school.

However, SATs also matter a lot to primary schools, because the results prove that they are meeting the standards of education for their students.

SATs results also form part of Ofsted inspections for primary school. Therefore, if a student achieves good SATs results, there are benefits for everyone.

If you’d like to know more about why SATs matter, check out this article by the BBC.

What happens if your child misses the SATs?

If a student is absent during the SATs, they will still have the opportunity to sit the exams, but they will be closely monitored.

According to the government website, if a student is absent on the day of the exam:

“headteachers must take steps to ensure the pupil does not have contact with others, for example by speaking to the pupil’s parents about how they can help prevent contact with other pupils who have already taken the test”.

Furthermore, “If a pupil returns to school during test week or the timetable variation period following an absence, the school must ensure the pupil is supervised so there is no opportunity for the pupil to discuss test content.”

You can read more about what to do if a student is absent during the Year 6 SATs on this page of the government website.

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