What are the benefits of using SATs-style tests with all year groups?
The national tests (or SATs) for key stage 1 and key stage 2 are rapidly approaching, which makes it timely to consider the benefits of using SATs-style tests with children in all year groups, not just those that will take the tests at the end of Year 2 and Year 6.
Benefits for children
Giving children the opportunity to become familiar with the style of national test questions and the format of the tests, including working to time limits, helps to demystify the test experience. Ultimately, this should give children confidence as they don’t need to worry about what to expect when it comes to time to take the national tests. It will also mean they have experience taking longer tests, which require more stamina than shorter, less formal assessments. The tests also give children an idea of areas where they are doing well and where they need to do more work, especially in topics that have not been taught for a while. As the national tests assess content taught over the entire key stage, revisiting prior learning at points throughout the year is particularly valuable.
Benefits for teachers
A key benefit for teachers of using SATs-style tests in all year groups is that they provide an independent way of assessing learning in relation to the national curriculum. By evaluating the results of the tests, for instance by using the online analysis which accompanies Rising Stars Optional Tests, the teacher can quickly identify areas in which children struggled. Delving deeper, they can explore whether this is because the test assessed topics that have not been taught yet. Alternatively, perhaps there was a particular question, or set of questions, which children didn’t understand. Undertaking this analysis can help teachers to plan future teaching and the information can also be shared with colleagues when children are moving up to the next year group.
Benefits for school leaders
For school leaders and governors, the use of SATs-style tests across all year groups is especially valuable because it enables a consistent approach to summative assessment, supporting benchmarking of attainment and progress of children during their time in the school. As highlighted by the Commission on Assessment without Levels in 2015, this kind of assessment also helps school leaders to monitor the performance of pupil cohorts, to identify where interventions may be required and to work with teachers to ensure children are supported to achieve sufficient progress and expected attainment. Another benefit to school leaders is that analysis of results by curriculum area can help to inform priorities for whole-school CPD. In addition, the assessment information can be used as part of the portfolio of evidence of learning for Ofsted. For example, it can demonstrate effectively how teachers and subject leaders make consistent judgements about children’ progress and attainment within a subject, across a year group and between year groups.
Benefits for parents and carers
SATs-style tests can develop parents’ and carers’ understanding of the expectations of the curriculum and give them an indication of how their child is doing at key points in the year. As for their children, increased familiarity with the style of the national tests helps to demystify the assessments and makes the prospect of the high stakes end-of-key-stage tests less daunting.
By Camilla Erskine, Consultant Publisher specialising in education and assessment