July 2016

The know zone

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    What do the controversial Key Stage 2 tests really mean for how schools assess children – and how the government assesses schools? Julie McCulloch looks for some answers. More
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What do the controversial Key Stage 2 tests really mean for how schools assess children – and how the government assesses schools? Julie McCulloch looks for some answers.

Testing times

Tick the option which shows how the underlined words in the sentence below are used.

The insect-eating Venus flytrap is a carnivorous plant.

  • as a main clause
  • as a fronted adverbial
  • as a subordinate clause
  • as a noun phrase

Got that? How about this one:

Which of the following sentences uses the present perfect form?

  • Jo went shopping on Saturday and she bought a whole new outfit.
  • The girl entered at the last minute and won the race!
  • My sister was a reserve, but she scored the winning goal.
  • My dog was very naughty, but since the classes he has been much better.

Feeling smug about SPAG? How about mathematical reasoning? (Calculators away, please.)

5,542 ÷ 17 = 326

  • Explain how you can use this fact to find the answer to 18 × 326

As you’ve probably guessed, these are all questions asked of 11 year-olds as part of this year’s Key Stage 2 tests (along with a series of questions based around a bizarre story of a girl riding a giraffe while being chased by baby warthogs – as you do).

Designed to assess how well children have mastered the new, more challenging primary curriculum, they have generated their fair share of controversy, whether about the content of the tests themselves – too mechanistic? too middle class?; the speed at which they were introduced (when children had only been following the new curriculum for two years); or the way in which they were administered – how exactly did two different tests end up being released in advance?

Scaled scores and floor standards

As most people are aware, in a world beyond levels, the KS2 test results will be expressed as a scaled score (the ‘scaled’ element of this is basically a mechanism to ensure parity from one year to the next). Scores will be based around 100 with this being the new expected standard, broadly equivalent to a Level 4b in old money. How far the scale extends above and below 100 will be determined once the tests have been marked, and the marks analysed.

In July, children will be told their raw scores, their scaled scores and whether or not they have attained the national standard. Secondary schools will be able to view their incoming pupils’ scaled scores at the same time.

What we don’t yet know is where the magic 100 mark will be set, and what this will mean for primary school accountability. The test results feed into the two primary floor standards: attainment and progress. Schools will be below the floor if less than 65% of their pupils reach the new expected standard in any of reading, writing or maths or if their pupils make insufficient progress.

It’s likely that we’ll see a significant increase in schools falling below the new attainment standard. Many of them are likely to be saved, though, by the progress measure. We don’t yet know where the progress bar will be set, and primary schools won’t find out until the autumn term whether they’re above or below it. However, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan committed in a recent speech to ensuring that “no more than 1% more schools will be below the floor standard than last year” – and the progress measure will almost certainly be the tool her officials will use to achieve this.

It will still be a long summer for many primary leaders and teachers as they wait to hear their fate, but they should take some comfort in this commitment.

Curriculum and targets

Finally, of course, all of this will have an impact on how secondary schools build on their pupils’ prior knowledge, and how they set targets for them.

Most secondary leaders are starting to think about how to change their Key Stage 3 curriculum to reflect the different knowledge and skills that this year’s Year 7s will bring.

Many are also considering how their assessment, progress and target-setting systems will need to be adapted to work with a scaled score, rather than a National Curriculum level, as its input measure.

SATs may be all over for our Year 6s but school leaders and teachers may be forgiven for not joining in the partying just yet.

ASCL Guidance Paper

Julie McCulloch has published a guidance paper on primary assessment and accountability changes and what they mean for your school. You can download it from the ASCL website at http://tinyurl.com/hsrxzjm

Julie McCulloch is ASCL Primary and Governance Specialist