Department for Education publicly release test materials from this year’s Key Stage 2 national tests

On 22nd May 2017 the Department for Education have publicly released the test materials from this year’s Key Stage 2 national tests.  These include test papers and mark schemes for Maths, English reading and English grammar, spelling and punctuation sat by KS2 pupils in May 2017. 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 →

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.

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Primary School Performance Tables

Achievements of pupils in state-funded primary schools in England have now been published.

Just 5 per cent of primary schools have been announced as being below the floor standard.  Schools are considered under-performing if fewer than 65 per cent of pupils fail to reach the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, or if they fail to make sufficient progress in these three key areas.

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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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