What are SATs results used for?

SATs results and how they are used
Do your child's SATs results really matter? We take a look at what these national tests are used for.

In the summer term of Year 6, all pupils in England take national assessments – known as SATs – in English and maths.

Some schools try to keep the tests as low-key as possible, while in others, preparing for SATs is the main focus of the entire year, with lots of revision and exam practice.

But do the test results actually matter? What are they used for – and what happens if your child doesn’t make the grade?

SATs and your child

Those who oppose SATs often say that the results are purely for the school’s benefit, and are meaningless as far as the individual child is concerned. But is this actually true?

In some respects, a good set of SATs results is indeed more important to schools than to the child. There’s no direct consequence of a child ‘failing’ their SATs; the results may reflect badly on the school, but they don’t have to retake the exams.

SATs do, however, measure the progress a child has made since their KS1 SATs, taken at the end of Year 2, and help to alert teachers to specific areas where they may need extra support.

This may mean that information is passed from a child’s primary school to their new secondary school so they can be given the necessary help.

You’ll be given your child’s SATs results in July, usually at the same time as their end of year report. You’ll be told their actual scores and whether they have achieved or exceeded the expected national standard.

SATs and secondary schools

Almost all secondary schools group children into sets or streams based on their academic ability, and SATs results may be used as part of the decision-making process.

That said, because children are only assessed in English and maths, and in particular skills within these subjects, it’s common for secondary schools to use their own tests (such as Year 7 CATs) as part of the setting process.

The results of these tests may be used on their own, or alongside SATs results, to determine which ability group a child ends up in.

Secondary schools also use SATs results to work out their Progress 8 score. This is a performance measure of how well pupils progress between Year 6 and Year 11, with their SATs results as a starting point.

Progress 8 scores give a picture of attainment across the entire year group, rather than on a child-by-child basis, and are used to place secondary schools in national league tables.

SATs and league tables

Why are some schools so preoccupied with SATs? Put simply, it’s because they’re the measure by which they’re ranked in league tables.

Schools are listed according to the percentage of children who reach the expected standard in SATs (nationally, it’s expected that 65% of children will achieve this), and the percentage of pupils exceeding the expected standard.

This shows how well a school is performing compared to others in your area.

As parents often make a decision about where to send their child to school based on league tables, it’s important to schools that as many pupils as possible achieve or exceed the nationally expected standard in SATs.

You can see how schools in your area are doing on the official Find and Compare Schools website.

It’s important to note, however, that SATs results are not the only thing to consider when comparing schools. They don’t tell you anything about how children perform in other subjects, or about the likelihood of bullying, or the range of extracurricular clubs on offer, for example.

They also only show children’s attainment, and not their progress. This is why league tables now include ‘progress measures,’ too.

SATs and progress measures

Primary school progress measures involve comparing pupils’ KS2 SATs results to other children across the country who were at a similar level at the end of Year 2, when they took KS1 SATs.

It’s thought to be a fairer system, as it recognises progress rather than attainment, and compares schools whose pupils have similar starting points.

Most schools will have progress scores between -5 and +5.

If a school has a score of 0, it means that pupils in that school make the expected amount of progress between the end of KS1 and the end of KS2.

If they have a score above 0, it means children at that school do better than expected compared to other pupils nationwide.

A score below 0 shows that they make less progress than is expected.

Progress measures are reported separately for reading, writing and maths.

SATs and Ofsted

SATs scores are also scrutinised by Ofsted when they inspect a school. The inspectors have to consider overall consistency in performance, and look for evidence that standards are improving or declining. SATs are a measure of this.

This is only one part of the picture, however. The inspectors will also look at areas including attendance, behaviour, the quality of leadership, the effectiveness of the governors, and views of parents and children in the school community, among other things.