Sats exams for youngsters at primary school will be scrapped if Labour wins power, Jeremy Corbyn has announced.
The party leader said it was time to end the “regime of extreme pressure testing” which has seen young pupils vomit due to stress and leave exam halls in tears.
Sats for seven and 11-year-olds and baseline assessments for reception classes would be abolished altogether under Labour and replaced with a broader curriculum that “prepares children for life, not just for exams”, Corbyn said.
Speaking at the National Education Union (NEU) conference in Liverpool on Tuesday, he said: “Sats and the regime of extreme pressure testing are giving young children nightmares and leaving them in floods of tears.
“I meet teachers of all ages and backgrounds who are totally overworked and overstressed. These are dedicated public servants. It’s just wrong.”
Primary schoolchildren undertake national tests and teacher assessments in English, maths and science at the end of Year 2 when aged six to seven, and national tests and teacher assessments in English and maths and teacher assessments in science at the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6), aged ten to 11.
Last year the government announced that Key Stage 1 Sats would be replaced with a new baseline assessment in reception beginning in 2020.
It follows teachers and parents repeatedly sounding the alarm over youngsters struggling to cope with stress during testing.
Corbyn added that, under his proposals, teachers would be encouraged to develop a broader curriculum, based on the individual needs of the child.
He told conference delegates the plans will raise standards by freeing teachers up to teach.
“Our assessment will be based on clear principles,” he said. “First, to understand the learning needs of each child, because every child is unique.
“And second, to encourage a broad curriculum aimed at a rounded education. When children have a rich and varied curriculum, when they’re encouraged to be creative, to develop their imagination, then there’s evidence that they do better at the core elements of literacy and numeracy too.”
The policy announcement was welcomed by Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, who said Corbyn “recognises the damage that a test-driven system is doing to children”.
She added: “The NEU has long advocated an assessment system that has the trust of teachers and school communities – one that will support children’s learning and raise standards of attainment in our schools.
“We look forward to the return of a broad and balanced primary curriculum and to the rekindling of the spirit of creativity in our schools. We welcome Labour’s commitment to work with the profession in order to develop these ground-breaking policies further.”
Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, said: “These tests have been part of school life since the 90s. They have been pivotal in raising standards in our primary schools. That’s why Labour governments led by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown supported them.
“Abolishing these tests would be a terrible, retrograde step.”