What can we learn from the 2017 KS2 reading and grammar test?

What can we learn from the 2017 KS2 reading and grammar test?

Thanks for Shareen Mayers for the following article.

After the challenging reading paper in 2016, many teachers were pleasantly surprised by the 2017 reading paper. The questions seemed to be a little more accessible and the texts appeared to be more relevant to year 6 pupils, especially the English Channel text. Shareen Mayers shares some of her key top tips for teachers and schools!

You can view the 2017 test papers here.

Reading

1. Explicitly teach new vocabulary

Once again, the KS2 reading paper had a huge percentage of questions focussed on understanding vocabulary in context (20%). This was the same percentage as last year but some of the words were more familiar. Interestingly, the vocabulary used are all linked to the KS1 and KS2 spelling rules. For example, -ed words, -al words, -ous words and -ing words. Therefore, the spelling rules can also be used to support the pitch of vocabulary that teachers need to expose pupils to in every year group. Please see my blog on vocabulary in the KS2 reading paper. Continue reading →

Key Stage 2 National Tests 2017: Thoughts and feedback from Deputy Head Michael Tidd

Thanks to Michael Tidd for this article.

Well, that’s that all over with for another year! After all the hard work – of both teachers and students – over the past months and years, the SATs finally came and went. So what did we make of them? It certainly could have been worse!

Reading

Those of us who suffered through the traumas of the Reading test of 2016 were prepared for the worst on Monday, and in most cases were pleasantly surprised. That’s not to say that it was easy, but it did at least feel fair. In 2016 even the first text seemed designed to cause nightmares for us all, and the first few questions didn’t help. For 2017 we were treated to a tolerable, if not gripping, text about a cat in a tree and some multiple choice questions to ease us in.

My one complaint? Dropping a bit of Spanish into a reading test seems a little unfair. If you speak Spanish fluently or not at all, then maybe it’s not so bad, but how many Year 6 children up and down the country spent valuable seconds trying to translate the Spanish based on their rudimentary Key Stage 2 knowledge?

Grammar

On Tuesday morning I was praying to the spelling gods for kind words. And then they gave us ‘coarse’. But first, the grammar to get through. For the second day in a row I found myself using the word “fair”. I tend not to look too closely at what children are writing during tests, because it only upsets me, but with the grammar test, the first answer I doubted when looking over somebody’s shoulder turned out to be correct: I’d not read the question properly! Continue reading →

The benefits of standardised tests

With many thanks to James Pembroke, founder of independent school data consultancy Sig+, for sharing his take on the benefits of standardised tests.

There are a wide spectrum of tests carried out in schools from the regular, mini tests that teachers use as part of their day-to-day practice to check pupils’ understanding, to the statutory end of key stage assessments that we can’t avoid. In between those sit the optional, externally set, standardised tests from third party providers, and it’s those that we are focused on here.

Some schools are opposed to introducing any form of standardised tests fearing that they may deter pupils as well as undermine the value of teacher assessment; others use them sporadically, perhaps not making full use of the data they provide; and then there are those schools that use them every term for all year groups as the main tool for monitoring standards. Clearly there are diametrically opposed viewpoints when it comes to standardised tests with some teachers seeing them as invasive and unnecessary whilst others consider them to be a highly effective tool.

Crucially we want assessment to provide us with useful information that can be acted upon so before implementing any new form of test we need to ask ourselves one vital question: will it tell us anything we don’t already know? With any well designed standardised test, the answer is almost certainly yes – the pros outweigh the cons – and I’ve outlined the numerous benefits below. Continue reading →

What are the benefits of regularly checking children’s attainment?

Thanks to Camilla Erskine for this article.

What are the benefits of regularly checking children’s attainment?

The main purpose of checking attainment is to see how children are doing in relation to what has been taught and using the information from that process to inform teaching. Assessment plays a key role in monitoring attainment in this way and this article illustrates its use for both summative and formative purposes.

Teachers will have a good sense of how each child is performing from their day-to-day teaching, but summative assessment can provide independent evidence of attainment to school leaders, parents and the children themselves. The information from such assessment can also challenge assumptions and preconceptions and offer more nuanced information about how a child is doing, potentially highlighting ‘blind spots’ or gaps in knowledge.

How can attainment be checked?

Regular attainment checks throughout the year, for example at the end of a unit of work or on a half-termly basis, can be carried out using a range of assessment resources. These can include tests and tasks created within the school or published materials. The main advantage of using assessments developed by teachers is that they are written specifically to reflect what has been taught over the period for which attainment is being monitored. This approach, however, is time consuming and is not something that everyone feels confident in doing, or has the experience to do effectively. Continue reading →

Using SATs-style tests with all year groups to support teaching and learning

AssessmentWhat 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. Continue reading →

A Guide to KS2 Writing Moderation in 2017

Primary girl for assessmentWe understand that consistent writing moderation is a challenge. That’s why we’ve worked with Shareen Mayers – primary teacher, English Consultant and certified KS2 Writing Moderator – to create this FREE Guide to KS2 Writing Moderation to support schools through every step of the process.

The guide includes support with:

  • best practice for writing moderation
  • preparing for a moderation visit
  • spelling and word lists
  • making judgements about children’s writing.

It also includes practical top tips and key information about writing moderation.

Download your FREE Guide to KS2 Writing Moderation here.

Are you looking for resources to support writing assessment and moderation? Take a look at free samples of our Writing Assessment Tasks. Continue reading →

Education Select Committee: second session

Thanks to Michael Tidd for the following article.

Following on from nearly 400 written submissions, and my own appearance last month, the Education Select Committee recently took further evidence from academic experts in assessment and data – and some common trends are arising.

This time, the evidence was from organisations such as Education Datalab, Ofsted, and the assessment experts of Durham and Cambridge Universities. The main strands of discussion focussed again on the impact of accountability – no surprises there – and it seems that the experts agreed with the classroom teachers by and large: it’s the high stakes that can cause the risks.

Becky Allen set out early on her view – as someone who deals with the data all the time – that we are making substantial decisions on what is always going to be rather fragile data in primary assessment. The limitations have long been known to teachers: the snapshot of test, the unreliability of KS1 data as a baseline, the small numbers of pupils. She echoed the point that has been made before that we really shouldn’t be making judgements of schools based on a single year’s data.

Continue reading →

Education Select Committee: primary assessment inquiry

Thank you to Deputy Head Michael Tidd for the following article. 

It’s not every day you get invited to the Houses of Parliament – and in fact, I still haven’t been. But I did at least get to go in the posh glass building next door to provide evidence to the Education Select Committee for their inquiry into primary assessment.

Anyone who knows me, or reads what I’ve written, knows that I’ve plenty to say on the topic – but with only an hour, and with MPs in control of the questions, I wasn’t sure I’d have time to say everything I wanted to.

The Select Committee has decided to hold the inquiry after the various headlines and events surrounding primary assessment over the past year, and they started with a very big – and vague – question about the purpose of assessment.

A considerable amount of discussion revolved around how the changes to primary assessment in recent years had affected teaching, learning, the curriculum and, of course, children. I think it’s fair to say that we highlighted a number of concerns in all those respects. Speaking personally, I’m broadly in favour of statutory assessment at the end of Year 6, but with our experiences of the very challenging reading test last year, the hugely frustrating writing assessment framework, and the clear reduction of time spent on science and other foundation subjects it’s clear that the impacts are significant.

Continue reading →

Vocabulary in the KS2 2016 reading test – sprint or marathon?

Thanks to Shareen Mayers for this article on vocabulary in the KS2 reading test.

Since the release of the 2016 KS2 reading test, I have been thinking about the vocabulary element in great depth. I have read endlessly about encouraging pupils to read for pleasure, shared reading, skimming and scanning and engendering a love of books, and I whole-heartedly agree with this but something told me to look deeper at the actual words that pupils were expected to know and understand. Indeed, they all seemed a little closer to home than I expected!

To my surprise, most of the words tested were a part of the national curriculum spelling appendix for KS1 and KS2. Words like ‘dangerous,’ ‘curious’ and ‘unique’ are even listed as non-statutory words within the national curriculum and the spelling rules/areas shown in the table below are all in the national curriculum. Of course, we cannot predict the vocabulary but this was interesting to note.

When teaching spellings, it is also important that pupils understand their meaning in different contexts as well as being able to spell them and use some/most of them in their writing.

Continue reading →

Tennyson Road Primary School, Luton

This year’s key stage 2 results paint a national picture of schools struggling to deal with the demands of a tough new curriculum. Just 53 per cent of 11-year-olds reached the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in 2016, a drop from 80 per cent in 2015.

But the performance tables reveal that some primaries are coping with the challenge better than others.

At Tennyson Road Primary, in Luton – an authority where results overall were below the national average – 100 per cent of children reached the expected level across the board.

And pupils didn’t just scrape it – average scaled scores (where 100 represents the expected standard) were 109, 110 and 111. To set the achievement in context, the school has a high proportion of pupils with English as an additional language, high mobility and high deprivation. Children start reception with below national average development.

Tennyson Road is an “outstanding” school and used to performing well. However, two years ago, when the results in Year 5 assessments were below what was expected, Head teacher Hilary Power knew the school had to raise its game.

Continue reading →