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 →

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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Education Select Committee – Primary Education Inquiry

In the first evidence session, held in December 2016, the Committee heard from teachers on the impact of primary assessment on teaching, learning and well being.

The second evidence session, held on 18th January 2017, focused on accountability measures, including the reliability of data, and the impact of assessment, as well as the design of the new tests and potential alternative assessment systems.

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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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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.

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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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Standards and Testing Agency video resources

We recently shared the key takeaways from the November 2016 Standards and Testing Agency webinars on primary assessment. The STA have now released videos of these webinars, along with other informative videos on themes such as ‘Understanding Scaled Scores’. You can watch these in their media and training area here.

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