On-screen times table test to be introduced as part of KS2 national tests

It was reported yesterday that all children will be tested on their times tables as part of their KS2 national tests. Unveiled by education secretary Nicky Morgan on 3rd January, the tests will examine the multiplication skills of every 11-year-old. Children will be expected to know their tables up to 12×12 and will be tested using an “on-screen check”.

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What makes a good assessment policy?

The report from the Commission on Assessment without Levels, published in September 2015, offers guidance to help schools in designing their own assessment policies. In order to help schools to better understand what makes a good assessment policy, we’ve summarised some key points from the report below.

  1. Define your assessment principles.According to the Commission, the starting point for any assessment policy should be the school’s principles of assessment. It should be clear what the aims of assessment are and how they can be achieved without adding unnecessarily to teacher workload. In particular, schools should ask:
  • Why are pupils being assessed?
  • What will the assessment measure?
  • What will the assessment achieve?
  • How will the assessment information be used? (see also point 3. below)
  1. Consider dividing your policy into the three main forms of assessment.Schools may wish to divide their assessment policy according to the three main forms of assessment:
  • in-school formative assessment– to evaluate pupils’ knowledge and understanding on a day-to-day basis and to tailor teaching accordingly;
  • in-school summative assessment– to enable schools to evaluate how much a pupil has learned at the end of a teaching period;
  • nationally standardised summative assessment– provides information on how pupils are performing in comparison to pupils nationally. The national curriculum tests at the end of KS1 and KS2 are an example.

To use each form of assessment to best effect, the Commission recommend that teachers and school leaders understand their various purposes.

  1. Outline the purpose of your assessment information.The Commission recommend that schools carefully consider the purpose of collecting assessment information and how the outcomes are intended to support teaching and learning. Continue reading →

Updated Key Stage 2 reporting arrangements for 2016 national tests

Updated Key Stage 2 assessment and reporting arrangements for 2016

Children who are at the end of Key Stage 2 in May 2016 will be the first to be assessed against the new national curriculum. Ahead of these new national tests, the Standards and Testing Agency have released statutory guidance for head teachers and local authority coordinators.

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FREE recorded webinar on assessment in the new curriculum

It’s the start of the new academic year and for many this signals the official start of a level-free approach to assessment.

To help you navigate your way through the numerous changes to the National Tests and understand how schools are expected to measure progress and attainment in the absence of levels, we have pre-recorded a free webinar. This is available to listen to by clicking play on the below screen, at any time, from anywhere, so you can digest all this useful information when it best suits you.

Put aside 45 minutes to listen to Camilla Erskine, our Consultant Publisher for Assessment, cover the following key areas:

  • An update on changes to the assessment and accountability landscape in England
  • What the removal of National Curriculum levels means for primary schools in terms of pupil attainment and progress
  • Overview of how Ofsted will judge attainment and progress without levels
  • What schools are doing in response to these changes
  • Sources of information and support
  • A brief overview of the Rising Stars and Hodder Education assessment solutions for primary schools (with special discounts for webinar viewers)

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Is the new written arithmetic paper in the National Tests on your radar?

The new arithmetic paper in the 2016 national tests

A good deal of focus on the new curriculum and its assessment arrangements over the past months has been on the higher expectations in maths and grammar, and on the complex problems that appear in the two problem solving and reasoning papers in the new KS2 tests for maths. Understandably teachers have focused on how they can adapt their curriculum to meet those new higher standards, but one change seems still to be just off the radar of many schools.

May 2015 saw the final statutory mental maths test undertaken by Year 6 pupils leaving KS2. Since 1998, around 10 million Year 6 children have taken the tests and thousands of teachers have doubtless been responsible for teaching those children the skills they need to meet the requirements of the test. The change, from next summer, to a written arithmetic test is not an unsubstantial one.

Up and down the lands schools can still often be found carrying out a weekly mental arithmetic practice test – indeed my own school still makes good use of the Rising Stars New Curriculum Mental Maths Tests because the skills are still essential for good mathematics. But our focus now needs to turn as well to the important element of the arithmetic test.

From next summer, children in both Year 2 and Year 6 will face a written arithmetic test as part of the end-of-key-stage statutory assessments, so alongside good practice in mental maths, schools need to start putting preparations in place to support our children in tackling this new test.

What’s involved at Key Stage One?

There will be a single arithmetic paper that requires some mental recall of facts as well as some calculations appropriate to the national curriculum expectations. Continue reading →

Changes to the National Tests and what you need to know – Key Stage 1

Thanks to Deputy Head Michael Tidd for researching and writing this article, which we hope will be a great time-saver for our readers!

From September, we will once again have all children in our primary schools working on a single National Curriculum. We’ll also be just months away from the first of the new style of National Curriculum Tests for Key Stages 1 and 2. Now the final frameworks and sample tests have been published, there are some minor changes. However, other changes are much more notable, so here is a quick reference guide to the new tests. We’ll start with Key Stage 1 in this first article but ensure you return to the Rising Stars blog for the Key Stage 2 instalment next week.

Key Stage 1

The big shift for all the tests at KS1 is the return of annually updated tests. Although teachers will still mark the tests internally, they will no longer have the choice of old papers to use; new tests will be produced each year, meaning unfamiliar content for every cohort. Of course, the tests also see the final removal of levels, with scores being given as a scaled score for each subject instead; 100 will represent ‘the expected standard’.

In maths, the first major change is the introduction of an arithmetic paper. The first paper will have 25 questions, each worth one mark, requiring use of discrete arithmetic skills ranging from knowledge of number bonds to simple fraction work. This paper will make up almost half of the total available marks, further emphasising the focus on number and calculations in the new curriculum. Continue reading →

Understanding Scaled Scores

The DfE has published information for headteachers, teachers, governors and local authorities about scaled scores and the national standard from 2016. You can read the full guidance on the DfE website here, and as this new method of reporting results can seem a lot to get your head around at first, we’ve summarised what we think are the key points below.

Why introduce a scaled score?

A new national curriculum brings the need for new national tests, which the STA will produce for Year 2 and Year 6 pupils to sit in May 2016. You can view information on the test frameworks and sample materials released by the DfE on 29th June here. These materials intend to give teachers a better understanding of the structure and content of the new tests.

In the new national curriculum, levels have been abolished. The government have said they took this decision partly in response to concerns about the validity and reliability of levels and sub-levels, but also because they were deemed a driver of ‘undue pace through the curriculum, which has led to gaps in pupils’ knowledge.’ The DfE are therefore changing how test performance is reported and from 2016 they will use scaled scores to report national test outcomes (a method used in numerous other countries).

So, what is a scaled score?

Using scaled scores enables test results to be reported consistently from one year to the next. Though national tests are designed to be as similar as possible every year in terms of demand, slight differences do occur. Scaled scores, however, maintain their meaning over time, so if two children achieve the same scaled score on two different tests, they will have demonstrated the same attainment. Continue reading →

How did you find the National Tests this year?

As this year’s National Test cycle draws to a close, we asked Y6 teacher and Upper KS2 Phase Leader Dave Witham from Plumcroft Primary School for his feedback on the difficulty and content of this round of tests.

Although Dave’s children reported tough questions in the level 6 GPS and Reading papers, on the whole, the impression was of a fair set of tests to accurately assess a child’s progress, strengths and weaknesses.

Dave’s feedback:

Level 6 (GPS, Maths and Reading)

Grammar Spelling and Punctuation

Proposed changes to the GPS paper (Plumcroft Primary took part in the trials!) didn’t materialise and the short answer paper was ‘more of the same’ from level 3-5. Spellings were very challenging and we’re still building a list of examples for the children. The writing element was very predictable and nothing to really challenge the children if they are a strong and solid level 5 writer.

Reading

The children struggled to get through the reading paper, although this was expected as it’s a tough ask in the amount of time given.

Maths

As usual, all the information was presented and ‘disguised’ to really sort out the truly gifted mathematicians; however again, a fair test.

Level 3-5 (GPS, Reading, Maths and Mental Maths) 

Grammar Spelling and Punctuation

The GPS paper threw up few challenges and the spellings covered were representative of suggested patterns. Continue reading →

Ten key themes from Colin Watson’s Education Show presentation

Colin Watson is the Deputy Director of Assessment Policy and Development at the DfE. Unsurprisingly his presentation at the Education Show this morning was ‘standing room only’ as hundreds of teachers gathered to hear his update on assessment for Primary schools. We thought it would be useful to summarise some of the key themes for those of you who were unable to get to the NEC today.

  1. Levels are not in line with the freedom intended to come with the new curriculum and the accountability system did not allow for great work to be recognised, therefore levels are not to be used with the new curriculum.
  2. Formative assessment is vital in classrooms every day but it is the responsibility of schools and not something central government should be involved with.
  3. New national tests mean a new floor standard has been raised. 85% of children will be expected to achieve a scaled score of 100 by the end of primary school.
  4. A school will only fall below this floor if pupils make poor progress AND fewer than 85% achieve the expected standard in national KS2 tests.
  5. The scaled score is yet to be determined and can only be decided using real data from the first set of new tests.
  6. The new progress measure will be a ‘value-added’ measure rather than an ‘expected level of progress’ measure. Continue reading →

Implications for Teaching and Learning 2014

Every year, Rising Stars commissions a team of experienced Year 6 teachers and consultants to review the Key Stage 2 National Test papers and pinpoint those areas where pupils performed less well.

This report outlines those areas that were identified as being problematic and makes suggestions for helping pupils to address these difficulties. This summary should be used in conjunction with teachers’ and schools’ own analysis of pupils’ performance in the National Tests and knowledge of the teaching that had prepared the pupils for them.

Please fill in the below form to receive your free reports Continue reading →