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.

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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.

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Reading in the national tests: how can we rise to the challenge?

Thanks to Deputy Headteacher Michael Tidd for this article. 

It seems that the 2016 reading test may well go down as one of those test papers that we all talk about for years. Like the traumas of “Caves and Caving in Davely Dale” or that wretched ‘fried-egg’ Venn diagram of a few years ago, there are some papers that take on an almost legendary quality. Jemmy the Giraffe is sure to have such fame. The challenge in the key stage 1 test was similarly daunting.

There is almost universal agreement that the texts were more difficult than those we’d seen in the sample test papers. But we need to be careful not to dismiss it as a one-off, pinning our hopes on easier tasks next year. The direction of travel has been clear for a while, and we need to do the best we can to prepare our pupils for challenging texts. While the 2016 paper may have been a particularly difficult paper, the thresholds have clearly shown that the DfE intends for the test to be hard. So, what can be done?

It’s clear from the new tests – and indeed the samples – that more challenging texts will be chosen for reading test papers at both key stages. Perhaps this is a reflection of the government’s intention that children read earlier, more frequently and more widely throughout primary schooling. Certainly this seems a likely outcome of the changes. Schools would do well to look at how they can broaden their children’s reading experience. It’s worth remembering that the National Curriculum clearly sets out that children should be exposed to books and stories which are beyond their reading level. 

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Primary assessment announcement: what does it mean?

Thank you to Deputy Headteacher Michael Tidd for this article. 

As promised, this week Justine Greening announced some changes to Primary Assessment, after the department reflected on the process earlier this year. The changes fall in three main parts: the coasting standard; assessment for lower-attaining pupils; and plans for reform of assessment more generally. Hopefully this will mean that in the next couple of years, schools can be fairly confident of what’s coming up. Consultations will begin in the new academic year about what changes should be made in the longer term.

Assessment in 2017 and 2018… and beyond

The general message here is that there will be relatively little change over the next two years. The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile will continue to be used, as will the current style of KS1 and KS2 tests and Teacher Assessment. The only exception is that the Key Stage 1 Grammar and Spelling test will not be compulsory.

This will mean no new times tables test in Year 6, no phonics check in Year 3, and no new Year 7 resit tests at least for the next couple of years.

It also means that schools will continue to use the “interim” assessment frameworks for Teacher Assessment for the next two years. The department has clearly recognised the challenges presented this year, and has said that additional guidance will be available for 2017, as well as statutory moderation training for Local Authority moderators.

This broad consistency will be welcomed by many in the interim, but it is clear that the department still feels there are areas that could still be improved. We can apparently expect a consultation in the spring term about any alterations to be made in the longer term. Continue reading →

Justine Greening releases statement on primary education

Justine Greening has released a statement on primary education which outlines a number of decisions and initiatives that will be taken forward by the Department for Education over this academic year and beyond. Here’s a quick summary of the key information.

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What can we learn from the 2016 KS2 reading test?

Thanks to Shareen for sharing the following five tips for teachers.

Many schools have reported that the KS2 reading paper this year was more difficult than expected, so we asked Shareen Mayers to share her thoughts on what we can learn for next year.

  1. Ditch the old SATs papers!

After visiting many year 6 classrooms this year, I noticed that teachers were still using old reading papers which have a different focus and style to the new test. For example, the new test has an increased emphasis on understanding vocabulary in context. The beginning of the 2016 reading paper was much harder than before, with questions that seemed reminiscent of the old level 4 right from the start of the paper. Though few, there are some practice papers available that are fully in-line with the new-style tests, so it is worth utilising these so that the complexity of the test is not such a surprise next year.

  1. Explicitly teach new vocabulary

One of the starkest changes this year was the emphasis and focus on pupils understanding vocabulary in context. A huge percentage of the questions were focused on this new content domain. This can be achieved through exposing pupils to a wide range of texts, especially texts from our literary heritage. A free download that can support teachers with teaching strategies is the old National Strategies booklet: Teaching Vocabulary EffectivelyPage 9 has some great tips to support teachers with ideas and strategies. Continue reading →

Scaled scores at key stage 1

In summer 2016, primary schools will use teacher assessment judgements to report on children’s progress at the end of key stage 1. These judgements should take into account a child’s performance in the national tests in mathematics and English. This year, the Department for Education will use scaled scores to report the outcomes of the national tests. The number of marks that children will need to score in order to reach a scaled score of 100 in 2016 has now been released. Have a look at our brief summary below for further information.

What is a scaled score?

A child’s scaled score is based on their raw score. The raw score is the total number of marks a child scores in a test. You can calculate a child’s raw score by adding together the total scores from both papers in each subject. For example, to calculate a child’s raw score for English reading, simply add together the scores from both the English reading Paper 1 and English reading Paper 2.

A scaled score of 100 will always represent the expected standard on the test. Children scoring 100 or more will have met the expected standard. The raw score is converted into a scaled score, using the conversion table here

The marks required to reach a scaled score of 100 at KS1 in 2016 are:

– Maths: 37 out of 60

– Reading: 22 out of 40

– Grammar, punctuation and spelling: 25 out of 40 Continue reading →

What will be the future of writing assessment?

Thanks to Michael Tidd for the following article. Posted May 2016. 

It seems fair to say that the interim teacher assessment frameworks have not been warmly welcomed this year. With Year 6 tests out of the way, and Year 2 tests swiftly following suit, attention is turning now in school to the process of teacher assessment for 2016.

Particularly in Writing, that process this year involves a lot of searching for technical features and punctuation throughout pieces of writing – and not much appreciation for the quality of the overall product. Teachers have quickly had to become adept at spotting hyphens and dashes, or finding ways of including exclamation sentences in seven-year-olds’ writing.

For now, it’s a system we’re stuck with, and teachers will find the best ways they can of dealing with it. These Writing Checklists will help both teachers and their students to provide the relevant evidence for this year, but what of the future? What are the alternatives?

Common Tasks

One possible alternative is the return of tests. They probably wouldn’t return in their current form, having not that long ago been scrapped, but it would be possible to insist on the completion of common tasks nationally which could return to being externally assessed. One of the significant issues also exists in the current systems – teacher assistance. Having seen coursework at GCSE scrapped because of the difficulties of ensuring a level playing field, it seems that anything short of test conditions could be fraught with difficulty. Continue reading →