The short answer to this is: yes. The SATs are compulsory end-of-Key-Stage tests that all children in state-funded Primary schools must sit in Year 2 and Year 6. But don’t worry because the real question you should be asking is: should my child be concerned about the SATs? And the answer to that question is a resounding: NO!
The reasoning behind the SATs is to evaluate and measure the progress of the school NOT the children. This is why some schools make a big deal about them and (wrongly) place a lot of pressure on the children to score highly. If all the children in the school do well in the SATs (particularly in the End of Key Stage 2 SATs in Year 6) then it is a safe assumption that the level and quality of teaching within the school is good. This is why a school inspection can be triggered by consistently poor SATs results year after year.
The other reason for the SATs is to inform parents and Secondary schools about the overall education level of children leaving Primary school.
For prospective parents, it gives them a little bit of insight into how the school has performed over the last four years. But only over the past four years (and, potentially, not even that - some schools turn over staff every year, which is a definite red flag if you’re looking). Remember though, performance in the SATs can only ever be suggestive about a school’s ethos. It is always better to visit the school and ask questions about the teaching philosophies.
For Secondary schools, having an overview of achievement of their various feeder schools (the Primary schools that their new pupils are coming from) can be really helpful in setting the tone and balance of teaching for the new Year 7 cohort.
But what about your child? What do the SATs mean for them?
Nothing really. Aside from an opportunity for them to prove what they have managed to learn over the past four years; a chance to look back and say I did my best; and a rite of passage, the SATs are pretty meaningless.
There is no way to fail the SATs. There is no pass mark. There is a threshold of 100 which the government expects children to hit (or go over), and this is calculated from an overall ‘raw’ score of 110 for both English and maths. If your child hits 100 or more, they are considered ready for Secondary school. If they score below 100, they are considered not ready for Secondary school. This does mean that they have failed. It means that their next school will know that some extra support might help them in Year 7.
There is no way a child can fail their SATs. In England, children are never held back or made to repeat a year of education. In the September following their final year of Primary school, regardless of their SATs score, they will go to their new Secondary school (which would have already been confirmed weeks before the SATs have even begun).