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09 May, 2016


  • Six out of ten children know SATs are important for primary school league tables
  • Year 6 pupils drinking coffee and energy drinks before exams
  • Kellogg’s donating almost 50,000 breakfasts to pupils sitting SATs this week

Ten and 11-year-old children are skipping meals to fit in extra study time for their SATs exams, according to new research by Kellogg’s.

A poll of 1,000 pupils* who took their Key Stage Two SATs last year found that a fifth (21%) had skipped breakfast in favour of extra preparation time.

Some 21 per cent said they’d stayed up late to revise and had even lost sleep worrying over the tests, which take place across England this week.

When polled, 17 per cent said they couldn’t eat due to nerves, and a further 17 per cent said they felt hungry before exams due to skipping meals. Given that 579,000 were eligible for SATs last year, that means more than 96,000 pupils could have gone into their exams feeling hungry.**

One in eight children didn’t eat most mornings of SATs week, with girls almost twice as likely as boys to abandon breakfast.

Those children who did eat often failed to have an appropriate breakfast. Some 58 children in the 1000 said they had an energy drink such as Red Bull or Monster – up from 30 in last year’s survey.

Thirty-three admitted drinking coffee, 41 said they had chocolate or sweets, and 16 (up from eight in 2014) 10 to 11-year-olds said they’d smoked cigarettes before exams.

Most children, however, chose a sensible breakfast, with cereal and toast the most popular choices.

More than half of the children surveyed (57 per cent) said teachers had told them SATs were important for the primary school league tables.

In a separate survey of 1,000 parents of children who took their SATs last year,*** 31 per cent said their child was too nervous to eat before their SATs exams. Almost half (45%) worried that their child wasn’t getting the right level of teaching to achieve good SATs grades, and of those most (54%) said it was down to teachers being under so much pressure that their teaching was unavoidably affected.

Some 44 per cent considered getting their child extra tutoring. The top reasons for wanting added help were to improve their child’s future prospects (57% listed this as a reason), and to get their child into better sets at secondary school (38%).

Some 17 per cent of children said they felt most pressured by their parents, second only to their teacher (29%) and ahead of their headteacher (6.8%).

This week, for the fourth year running, Kellogg’s is donating 47,800 free breakfasts to 300 schools so that pupils won’t be sitting their exams on an empty stomach. The cereal giant’s breakfast club programme, which helps children have something to eat in a calm environment before school, was founded in 1998.

Child psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer said: “It’s a worrying trend that children are feeling pressured at such a young age to the extent that it affects their sleep and diet. The paradox is that these children are actually reducing their chances of success, as sleep and nutrition play a large part in a child’s ability to cope with challenges faced during the day.

“Parents need to help children feel valued for who they are and the effort they put in and reduce the anxiety around exams. Parents can help their children develop positive exam strategies that help them thrive in the long term and set them up for lifelong learning rather than cramming for any one test.”

John Coe of the National Association for Primary Education said: “Having breakfast with friends at a breakfast club can help children to calm any nerves they might have before sitting their exams.

“A decent breakfast is – in itself – a great way of preparing for the tests.”


For more information, please contact the Kellogg’s Press Office on 0161 869 5500 or email


*Results based on a survey of 1,000 children who took their Key Stage 2 SATs exams last year in England. Research carried out by Opinion Matters on behalf of Kellogg’s between 24/03/2016 and 31/03/2016.

**All extrapolations based on Government figures showing there were 579,000 pupils eligible for SATs in the 2014-15 academic year.

***Results based on a survey of 1,000 parents of children who took their Key Stage 2 SATs exams last year in England. Research carried out by Opinion Matters on behalf of Kellogg’s between 24/03/2016 and 31/03/2016.

John Coe began teaching in Essex.  After primary headships – first at a small rural school and then at a school serving an underprivileged community – he joined the West Riding of Yorkshire authority as Inspector of Schools. His second local authority appointment extended over 16 years as Senior Adviser on education in Oxfordshire. In 1984 he moved into Higher Education as Course Leader of the PGCE Primary Course at the London Institute of Education. A later move to Oxford Brookes University involved him in research and both initial and in-service education. He is a Fellow of the University.

Dr Amanda Gummer has over 20 years of experience in working with children and families. Her book Play, which advocates a practical antidote to the pressure-parenting that is prevalent in western society today, was published by Vermillion in May 2015. Dr Gummer is a non-exec research director for the social enterprise Families in Focus, supporting families of children with additional needs, as well as a member of the British Psychological Society. She is often involved in government policy around children’s issues and is a member of two All-Party Parliamentary Groups: ‘1001 Critical Days’ and ‘Fit and Healthy Childhoods’. Dr Gummer founded Fundamentally Children, which offers independent reviews of toys and apps for children.