Changes to Key Stage 2 Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) from 2016

9 Apr

I        The arrangements

From 2016, pupils at the end of Key Stage (KS) 2 will continue to sit externally-set and marked tests in mathematics, reading, and grammar, punctuation and spelling. These will be used for school performance measures from 2016 onwards. A sample of pupils will sit tests in science as well, to give a picture of national performance in this subject.

Teacher assessment in maths, reading, writing and science will continue. Tests and assessments will reflect the 2014 National Curriculum and will be reported as scaled scores.

The 2016 assessment and reporting arrangements (ARA), published by the Standards and Testing Agency (STA), explains that the new KS2 National Curriculum tests (SATs) will consist of

  1. English reading: with associated resources of reading and answer booklets;
  2. English grammar, punctuation and spelling paper 1: short-answer questions;
  3. English grammar, punctuation and spelling paper 2: spelling;
  4. Maths paper 1: arithmetic;
  5. Maths paper 2: reasoning; and
  6. Maths paper 3: reasoning.

The ARA document states that the KS2 tests will be administered in the week beginning 9 May 2016. Table 3.3 on page 8 of the ARA document shows the scheduled days when tests must be taken. It explains that these dates may change.

The STA’s guidance about KS1 and KS2 test dates in 2016 explains that the KS2 science sampling tests will take place in the weeks commencing 6 and 17 June 2016.

II       Publishing the Test Results

Page 30 of the ARA document explains that the STA will publish test results on the National Curriculum Assessment (NCA) tools website on 5 July 2016. Each pupil registered for the tests will receive:

  1. a raw score;
  2. a scaled score; and
  3. confirmation of whether or not he/she attained the expected standard

The Department for Education had previously issued a leaflet explaining that in the 2015/16 academic year, pupils’ results would be reported as scaled scores rather than levels. The expected standard will be a score of 100. Scores of above or below 100 will show pupils exceeding or failing to meet the expected standard.

The STA published a framework for each of the KS2 tests, as guidance for test developers.  Section 6.5 of each framework explains that a pupil’s raw score on a test (that is, the total marks achieved out of the total marks available) will be converted into a scaled score. Scaled scores (according to the STA) will ensure that performance is reported on a consistent scale for all children.

Section 6.5 of each test framework says:

A standard-setting exercise will be conducted on the first live test in 2016 in order to determine the scaled score needed for a pupil to be considered to have met the standard.

An STA representative explained that this standard-setting exercise will assess the difficulty of the test in question, and then determine how raw marks will be converted into scaled scores in such a way that a score of 100 represents the expected standard.

Section 6.7 of each test framework explains that a performance descriptor will be used to set the standards for the new tests following their first administration in May 2016. The performance descriptor describes the typical characteristics of children whose performance in the tests is at the expected standard.

In the framework for the KS2 maths test, the performance descriptor sets out what children working at the expected standard in mathematics are able to do in the following areas:

  1. Number, ratio and algebra
  2. Measurement
  3. Geometry
  4. Statistics
  5. Solving problems and reasoning mathematically

The STA says that the performance descriptor is “not intended to be used to support teacher assessment”, as it only reflects elements that can be assessed in a written test.

A consultant to The Key, a governors’ organisation, set out the following questions governors should ask the headteachers of their schools on this subject.  These are as follows.

  1. How has the senior leadership team decided on a system to track progress for these pupils?
  2. How do we know that the system is effective and robust?
  3. How will the new scores be compared with the baseline assessment of pupils when they arrived in the school?
  4. What does expected progress look like?

He added that there was no government guidance on how schools should report to parents on their children’s achievements and progress, but suggested it may be more useful for parents to know whether pupils were not meeting, meeting or exceeding expected progress, rather than simply knowing the exact score. Receiving a numerical figure only might seem meaningless to those who are not familiar with the system.

III     Year 7 SATs re-sits planned

In November 2015, the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, gave a speech to the Policy Exchange where she explained that the government was introducing year 7 re-sit tests for pupils who did not achieve the expected standard in KS 2 National Curriculum assessments (SATs).  The DfE published timelines for maintained schools and academies which state that year 7 re-sit tests in English reading and maths will be introduced in December 2017.

The Key spoke to the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) representative, who confirmed that students who start year 7 in September 2017 will be the first cohort to take the re-sit tests.

The DfE timelines, linked to the above, do not state whether a year 7 re-sit in English grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS) will take place. The Key asked another STA representative, who explained that the STA is currently unable to confirm whether an English GPS re-sit test will take place in December 2017.

IV     Union reaction

Delegates at the National Union of Teachers (NUT) voted at their Spring 2016 conference in Brighton to ballot its members about boycotting the tests on the grounds that the arrangements are detrimental to children and young people. The union criticised the confusion that the government has created because of the “chaotic” changes.  In 2017, the NUT, in all probability, will strike over the new arrangements for SATs at Key Stage 2.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said the members would be asked to abandon the tests for next year.  (It is too late to ballot for this year’s tests.)  The Daily Telegraph reported her as saying: “Teachers are angry and dismayed at the primary tests, which they believe are age-inappropriate.  Teachers are wasting their time preparing children for tests at the expense of offering a vibrant engaging education for their pupils.

“Far from improving outcomes for 11-year-olds, the endless high-stakes testing of such young children could easily switch children off from learning, increase their anxiety levels, and harm their self-confidence – a vital ingredient for successful learning.”

However, a Department for Education (DfE) spokesman countered with: “We want to see all children pushed to reach their potential. In order to do that and to recognise the achievements of schools in the most challenging areas, we want to measure the progress that all pupils make as well as their overall achievement.

“It is disappointing to see the NUT taking this approach, which would disrupt children’s education rather than working with us constructively as other unions have.”

An NUT survey published in the week of 27 March 2016 revealed that 86% of teachers believe that this summer’s tests at Key Stages 1 and 2 should be cancelled by the government because of the “chaos surrounding implementation”.

V       Others comment

On a not unrelated issue, Sam Freedman, executive director of programmes at Teach First and a former government policy adviser (writing in The Times Educational Supplement on 25 March 2015) stated that the average pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools fell from 23.3 in 2000 to 20.9 today.  Yet, the primary teachers’ workload had increased.  He adds that the main culprit has been assessment and marking especially.   According to a survey carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) a couple of years ago, teachers spend 10 hours a week on this, twice as much as they did three years ago.

The increase in pupil numbers (since 2000, the number of primary pupils increased by 422,000) has not been matched by an increase in teachers.  In fact, the NFER discovered that there has been a haemorrhage with 10% going into the private sector and many more switching to become teaching assistants.   He suggests that if schools are to retain their teachers, they should design sustainable assessment systems and create a working culture that is conducive to a good work-life balance.

Tony Little, former headteacher of Eton College, should have the last word on the thorny subject of assessment.   Speaking at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, Mr Little, now the chief academic officer of GEMS, warned that a “joyless” and “Victorian” approach to exams and testing in England was “undermining the culture of our schools”.   The culture of testing did not sit well in an age that demanded “academic and technical rigour beyond boundaries”.

(I am grateful to The Key for much of the above information.)


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