Controversial national tests taken by seven-year-olds in England could be scrapped under new government plans.
The move follows years of pressure from teachers, parents and educationalists opposed to putting young pupils through high stakes national Sats tests.
The statutory tests in English, maths and spelling and grammar, are used to monitor schools’ progress.
The Department for Education is proposing a new assessment for pupils when they first start school instead.
This should be done in such a way that pupils do not realise they are being assessed, the DfE said.
The results will be used to measure progress that pupils have made by the time they leave primary school aged 11.
Education Secretary Justine Greening said: “The government has reformed the primary school system to make sure children can master the basics of literacy and numeracy so they get the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in later life.
“Now we want to build on that by developing a stable assessment system that helps children learn, while freeing up teachers to do what they do best – supporting children to fulfil their potential.”
The possibility that the controversial tests sat by children in Year 2 could be axed will be welcomed by many who argue they have been putting undue pressure on very young children.
Teachers often complain that children in England are more frequently tested than those in the rest of Europe.
The new assessment – probably when children start Reception – is also likely to replace the Early Years Foundation Stage profile, which currently comes at the end of that school year.
It is understood that the National Association of Head Teachers has worked closely with the Department for Education on the planned changes which will now go out to consultation for 12 weeks.
This year’s tests are expected to go ahead as planned, the DfE said.
General Secretary Russell Hobby said he appreciated the engagement of the Secretary of State with the concerns of school leaders.
“The possibility of ending Key Stage 1 Sats is good news.
“This creates the time and space in a pupil’s primary years for teachers to focus on teaching rather than on high stakes assessment.
“It will properly reward early intervention and it will reduce workload.
“Overall, minimising the number of high stakes tests is the right way to go. This will help every school to deliver a rich educational experience for all children.”
He said that the government had listened to many of the principles and recommendations in his union’s report on assessment.
“There’s more to be accomplished but we’ve made good progress from where we were a year ago,” he added.
Last year, hundreds of parents protested against the tests by taking their children out of school in some areas.
And primary school assessment was beset with difficulties after a number of papers were accidentally published and teachers complained of a lack of information on test levels.
Last autumn, Education Secretary Justine Greening said she would take steps to simplify the school assessment system.
She also pledged that no new national tests or assessments would be introduced before the 2018/19 academic year.
The government would look at the best starting point to measure children’s progress in primary schools, she said, as well as the role of teacher assessment.
Mr Hobby also welcomed plans to allow a little leeway in the marking of writing assessments, and to look at the balance between the creative and technical aspects of writing.