2023 Autumn Term

The know zone

  • It's all in the data
    Understanding national Key Stage 1 and 2 data patterns is important, says Tiffnie Harris. Here, she urges both primary and secondary leaders to use the data to plan ahead. More
  • Are school estates crumbling?
    Emma Harrison reflects on the challenges and wider implications associated with a deteriorating school estate. More
  • What counts?
    Kevin Gilmartin looks at which results will be published in this year's 16-18 performance tables and what impact this will have on the accountability of sixth form leaders in schools and colleges. More
  • Qualifications taken abroad
    Dr Anne Murdoch asks why is the government so inflexible about qualifications achieved abroad when the country needs skilled people? More
  • Recruit and retain
    Are you finding it difficult to recruit staff? Are there particular roles or subjects you are struggling to recruit for? Here ASCL members share their views. More
  • Back to school
    Headteacher Sharan Matharu says ASCL Council enables her to make a difference to education. Here, she shares her passion for Council, volunteering and heading back to the classroom to learn Punjabi. More
  • Happy holidays?
    Next time someone moans to you about all the holidays teachers get, just suggest they become one too and wait for the deafening silence, says Carl Smith. More
Bookmark and Share

It's all in the data

Understanding national Key Stage 1 and 2 data patterns is important, says Tiffnie Harris. Here, she urges both primary and secondary leaders to use the data to plan ahead.

On 12 September, the DfE published the end of 2023 Key Stage 2 provisional statistics (tinyurl.com/5xcefwu2), providing provisional statistics on attainment in Key Stage 2 national curriculum assessments in England. 

The update included results for pupils in schools in England at national, regional, local authority level, local authority district and constituency level, by school characteristics and by pupil characteristics such as gender, disadvantage and special educational needs (SEN). 

The 11 year-olds who sat the national tests in 2023 saw a significantly more challenging reading paper compared to previous years, albeit adjusted accordingly through standards maintenance. You might have seen this in the media at the time and read our thoughts on this issue (www.ascl.org.uk/RoguePaper). It needs no reminder that the children who took the tests in May this year were significantly affected by disruptions to their learning during the pandemic, mostly during their time in Year 3. 

Some big attainment drops were seen in 2022, particularly in writing, alongside the widest disadvantaged gap in a decade. So, we were not expecting any positive surprises in the 2023 data, and nor did we see any. 


Statistics for 2023 showed that only 59% of pupils met the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics. This standard is lower than pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, 65% of pupils reached the expected standard in all of reading, writing and maths (combined), up from 64% in 2018 (tinyurl.com/4a86pkw3). 

Alongside this, the disadvantage gap index (DGI) – a calculation of the difference between disadvantaged pupils and their peers in reading, writing and maths scaled scores – remained stable compared with 2022, yet is still the widest gap we have seen since 2012. 


The data from Key Stage 2 will have severe implications for secondary schools. The data relates to current Year 7 pupils and means that more than 25% of 11 year-olds are starting secondary school below the level considered to be the threshold of functionality for them to manage the demands of the secondary school curriculum. This information is key in understanding where to target support and intervention, and to what extent a curriculum might need to be adapted. Some of the questions you should seek to answer include: how many pupils have a reading age below that of an 11-year-old? What does writing looking like, especially among boys? In 2023, the biggest attainment gap was between boys and girls in writing, with girls outperforming boys by 13%. 

In March, the government announced in the white paper (tinyurl.com/44b2apuc) that its ambition was that by 2030 “90% of primary school children will achieve the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, and the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst performing areas will have increased by a third”. Ambitions are all very well, but primary schools need urgent support from the government to achieve anything even close to the white paper’s targets. Against a backdrop of recruitment and retention challenges, funding implications and the fear of accountability and inspection, there is only so much primary school leaders can do. 

Plan ahead 

Things will not change any time soon. The 2022 end of Key Stage 1 national data (tinyurl.com/2428jtaz) presented similar statistics and the 2023 data published in October (tinyurl.com/3jhcadjd) shows a similar pattern. These children will start Year 7 in 2027. 

Understanding national data patterns could help primary leaders understand their own internal assessment data, and support curriculum planning and improvement plan target setting. For secondary leaders, using this information to plan ahead could be the key in considering where to target support and early intervention ahead of the next new intake. 

Tiffnie Harris
ASCL Primary and Data Specialist