A survey has revealed that nine in 10 teachers believe that SATs are harmful to their pupils’ well-being and also their mental health.

The National Education Union surveyed 1,200 primary school teachers and 88% reported pupils struggling with nightmares, crying or changes in behaviour.

They also said that ahead of the test taking place, they had pupils who were highly stressed.

One teacher told researchers that their school had experienced crying children, others making themselves ill and others refusing to attend school.

Another added that some children become so stressed that special provision has to be made for them to sit in a small group with an adult to give them emotional support and this is increasing every year.

86% blame SATs for lowering the quality of primary school education

The survey also highlights that 86% of teachers blame SATs for lowering the quality of primary school education as they force schools to focus on assessment and narrow the curriculum.

The joint general secretary of the NEU, Dr Mary Bousted, said: “Teachers accept the need to be accountable and for how well children do but SATs are not the right way of doing this.

“Instead of creating excellence and raising standards, they create stress and demotivate teachers and do not benefit children’s learning.”

Ofsted reported last year that some schools are narrowing the curriculum for Year 6 pupils as early as Christmas so they can cram for the tests.

The survey also highlights that some pupils were likely to feel like failures and 80% of teachers said their pupils were severely affected by the tests.

Pupils whose first language is not English are more likely to feel stressed

Particularly, for 66% of teachers, those pupils whose first language is not English, are more likely to feel stressed and also those pupils born in summer months are also at risk because they are the youngest in their year.

The union’s survey follows in the steps of one carried out recently by The Key, an information service, which found 75% of primary school leaders lack confidence in the assessment system.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said that SATs enable a test for gauging whether children can write, read and add-up well.

He added that the test also lays the foundations for ‘success in secondary school and beyond’.

Dr Bousted added: “The government needs to recognise that despite their rhetoric that focuses on excellence and standards, they have created a system that’s the opposite of what they intended and it is lowering quality and demotivating and harming many children.

“The harrowing stories we’ve heard about stressed, crying children should make the government set up and take notice.”