Page last updated at 16:49 GMT, Wednesday, 6 May 2009 17:49 UK

School tests: who takes what

boy writing
Millions of tests are taken each year

A guide to the varied pattern of tests around the UK in the school years prior to the public exams (such as GCSEs) which most sit at the end of compulsory education.

Ages are approximate : tests are taken mainly in May and many children will not reach the age in question until later in the year.


Age 5 : Teacher assessment of children's all-round development against the Foundation Stage profile, or the Early Years Foundation Stage profile from September 2008

Age 7 : Key Stage 1 national tests available in English and maths, marked in school and used to inform assessments by teachers, who decide the level achieved

Age 11 : Key Stage 2 national tests in English, maths and science, marked externally, school's results published nationally. In some areas, tests of various types for those seeking grammar school places, marked externally, results private. The science tests are being taken for the last time in 2009

Single level tests are being piloted. These are not age-specific but are taken when a child's teacher thinks he or she has reached the next national curriculum level.


Age 4/5: Statutory teacher assessment in language skills, mathematics skills, and personal and social skills takes place within seven weeks of children starting primary school

Age 7: Statutory teacher assessment in English (and Welsh*), maths and science

Age 10 : Cross-curricular "skills tests" in numeracy, literacy and problem-solving mandatory from 2008, results private

Age 11 : Key Stage 2 national tests in English (Welsh*), maths and science have been replaced by statutory teacher assessments bolstered by local moderation (checking what the teachers are doing), with optional test materials available, schools' results available locally

Age 14 : Key Stage 3 national tests in English (Welsh*), maths and science, replaced by statutory teacher assessments in English (Welsh), maths, science, history, geography, design and technology, information technology, modern foreign languages, art, music and physical education.

Northern Ireland

Alongside the introduction of a revised curriculum the system is changing to a pattern of assessments within schools by which teachers will check children's progress in different subjects

Parents see the results in annual pupil profiles produced in a standard format

The old transfer tests in English (Irish*), maths and science and technology for those seeking grammar school places, marked externally, were last taken in 2008, though replacements are still under debate


Ages 5-14 : National tests (now called assessments) in reading, writing and maths, corresponding roughly to Key Stages 1 - 3 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland except pupils are not tested at a specific age or stage, but "when ready" at teachers' discretion. Marked internally, results private

The Scottish Executive promotes the idea that "assessment is for learning". For national and international comparative purposes a sample of children is tested separately for an annual Survey of Achievement.

Why are they called 'Sats'?

Officially they aren't - though that has become the almost universal name for them.

In 1991 the Conservatives had a trial run of Standard Assessment Tasks (hence the acronym "Sats") for six and seven-year-olds in infant schools across England and Wales.

Originally they were practical "tasks" rather than pencil-and-paper tests. In science, for example, groups had to experiment with rocks, feathers, and plastic to see whether they would float or sink in water.

The then education secretary, Kenneth Clarke, changed them to written tests which all pupils could take simultaneously.

So national curriculum testing was born, but the old acronym stuck.

Not to be confused with the totally different SATs (pronounced as initials - "S-A-T" - rather than as a word) used in the US for assessing people's college potential.

Dating from 1926 and named at various times Scholastic Achievement Tests, Scholastic Assessment Tests and Scholastic Aptitude Tests, they are a registered trade mark of the non-profit College Board association.

* in schools where Welsh or Irish is the main language of instruction.

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