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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Learning from Raise

Thanks to Michael Tidd for this helpful article.

The excitement of opening up Raise Online when the data is first published is… well, perhaps excitement is not quite the right word. Nevertheless, when the data finally arrived this term headteachers will have been poring over it trying to extract every last detail of information about last year’s performance. Doubtless governors too will get their chance to share in the scatterplots and tables, wisely guided by the professional leads.

The problem is, it’s too late for all those children, and just like the stock market adverts always tell us: historic performance is not necessarily a guide to future success. Leaders and governors need to consider what has gone before, but all the while need to be keeping an eye on the future. So while Raise can tell us something of what we achieved last year, how else do we keep everyone informed, including our governors?

One big thing that is evident from this year’s Raise summary is the clear focus on disadvantaged pupils, i.e. those eligible for pupil premium funding. Barely a page goes by without the group being separated out from the rest of the cohort and their attainment and progress being listed separately. In many cases, it’s also compared to other pupils nationally, but it’s important to note that it’s not other pupil premium children, but rather the non-PP children they’re being compared to. That’s important to consider when looking at other data in school.

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2017 Assessments Webinar: KS1 and KS2

On 15th November 2016, the Standards and Testings Agency broadcast a webinar on 2017 assessments. We’ve summarised the key points below.

Key stage 1 assessments: an overview

  • There will be no new test types introduced before 2018/19.
  • The consultation on the future of primary assessment will commence early next year.
  • Thursday 29th June is the KS1 teacher assessments submission deadline.
  • The KS1 spelling and grammar test will remain optional for 2017. Schools who wish to use it can still download materials from NCA tools.

Key stage 2 assessments: an overview

  • There will be no new test types introduced before 2018/19.
  • The consultation on the future of primary assessment will commence early next year.
  • Year 7 re-sits will not be introduced.
  • A statutory multiplication times tables check will be going ahead, but not before the 2018/19 academic year.

Key stage 1 assessments: key questions answered

Last year, the DfE changed its expectations regarding handwriting for writing assessment. Are there any changes this year?

No. To reach the expected standard,  handwriting is not a necessary component.

Do children have to pass phonics check to be considered as meeting the expected standard in reading? 

No. If teachers want to include the phonics check as evidence of a child meeting expectations that is okay, but there is no formal requirement for a child to pass to be considered ‘working at expectations’.

Will the test results have to be reported to the LA? 

No. The tests are there to help inform teacher assessment which will then need to be reported to the DfE. LAs can ask to see tests as part of moderation visits.

Should P Scales still be used to assess children with SEN?

Yes. One of the recommendations from the Rochford Review is to make P Scales non-statutory; however, for this current academic year, P Scales remain statutory and should still be used.

What classes as independent in terms of spelling for a child working at the expected standard in writing?

Any resources that the child accesses independently e.g. words on the wall or in the dictionary (providing they choose to use these resources themselves) are acceptable. An electronic resource that suggests spellings for a child automatically would not be considered independent, nor would a teacher’s suggestion to check spellings.

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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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Key stage 2 national tests and the shared mission

Thanks to Michael Tidd for this article. 

There’s something of a murmuring among Year 6 teachers that when it comes to SATs, if things go well then the credit is shared across the school, but when things go wrong, it’s the Year 6 team who get the blame. Of course, those who work in other year groups would probably just as soon argue that it’s the reverse that’s true.

The truth is, of course, that Year 6 results are inevitably a representation of the work done by all of the teachers who come into contact with children during their time with us. That’s never been truer than today, as we emerge from analysing the results of the first of the new style tests.

For the past couple of years we have been working blind, only able to draw on our own experience of the curriculum to estimate what might crop up and how best we can prepare our pupils. Now we’ve seen the tests and frameworks for real, we can start to make some more informed changes to how we work – and not only in Year 6.

Naturally thoughts will go first to identifying the gaps that need filling for current Year 6 cohorts. Good assessment in school, linked to our knowledge of the tests can help here. Continue reading →

Primary school accountability in 2016: key updates

From today, (September 1st 2016) primary schools will be able to access and check their own provisional progress data. The Department for Education has also released further information on progress thresholds, writing assessment points and pupils below the standard of the test, which we’ve summarised below.

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KS2 progress measures: key information and the national picture

Thanks to Deputy Head teacher Michael Tidd for this article.

Head teachers will have been frantically logging on to the DfE website today to find out how their schools have done in the new progress measures following this summer’s new KS2 tests – even though many schools still haven’t started the new term yet! It’s left many of us unprepared, and probably many more scrabbling around for the key login details.

Getting your school’s data

Head teachers will have been sent login details for the Tables Checking website, including a password which was sent out by post last week. For schools whose post is held by the Royal Mail over the holidays, that may now mean an anxious wait. There is a helpline and email address on the Tables Checking site for those who can’t hang on for the postman!

Once logged in, you will be able to complete a data checking exercise, as in previous years, to ensure that data is accurate before it goes into the final version of Raise Online. You’ll also be able to see your school’s progress measures for each of the three key subjects: Reading, Writing and Maths. These scores are all-important for the new floor standard – particularly for the majority of schools who did not reach the 65% attainment thresholds.

These figures are simple numbers, roughly in the range of -10 to 10. A score of 0 in any given subject means that children at your school – on average – made the same progress as others of a similar ability nationally in that subject. Positive scores suggest your children did better than the average nationally, and negative scores suggest that progress was not as good as the national average. Importantly, negative scores do not necessarily mean that your school is in trouble. Continue reading →

Changes to the National Tests and what you need to know – Key Stage 2

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. In my last article, I focused on changes in Key Stage 1. Here is a quick ‘need to know’ guide for Key Stage 2.

Key Stage 2

National Curriculum Tests at Key Stage 2 seem to have changed repeatedly in the last few years, so the changes in 2016 will perhaps be not so much a shock as a feeling of ongoing change. Nevertheless, there are some significant areas that are worthy of teachers’ attention in KS2. 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 major change is the introduction of an arithmetic paper in lieu of the old mental mathematics test. The arithmetic paper will have 35–40 questions, most of which will be worth one mark, requiring use of discrete arithmetic skills ranging from basic addition and subtraction to calculations with fractions. The questions are all in the form of calculations – there are no words. At 40 marks, this paper will make up just over one-third of the total available marks, further emphasising the focus on number and calculations in the new curriculum. Continue reading →