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KS2 SATs results

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There’s been a lot of talk in the media about the results of the KS2 SATS, with only a reported 53% of pupils meeting the expected standard in Reading, Writing and Maths. But what do we learn if we look beyond this headline statistic? What did we really find out about the performance of 11-year-olds across the country? Are we any the wiser about scaled scores? And what more have we learnt about the Government’s plans for assessment reform?


What are the main results?

The main headline in relation to the KS2 SATs results has been that almost half of 11-year-olds failed to meet the new National Standard in the three R’s – just 53% made the grade in Reading, Writing (now teacher-assessed) and Arithmetic, compared to 80% last year.

If we look a little deeper, the individual results for each strand of the tests can tell us more:

  • 66% of pupils met the standard in Reading
  • 70% in Maths
  • 72% in Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling
  • 74% in the teacher-assessed Writing

However, these results must be considered alongside the respective pass marks. Exactly what were the pass marks necessary to achieve ‘the standard’?

  • For Maths it was 60 out of 110
  • For Reading it was 21 out of 50
  • For Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling it was 43 out of 70

But what do these results mean in context?

These tests were undeniably harder than last year’s, so we shouldn’t read too much into this apparent plunge in results.

In addition to the increased difficulty level of the tests, this year more marks were needed to achieve the expected standard. Last year, to achieve a Level 4 (the previous expected standard) pupils would have needed to get 46% in Maths, 36 % in Reading and 61% in Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling. This year, whilst the 61% line was maintained in SPAG, the children needed 54.5% for Maths and 42% for Reading.

As Nicki Morgan says:

“This is the first year we have assessed pupils under the new more rigorous system and it is no surprise that this year’s results look different to previous years.”

What was the reaction of the profession?

Teachers and educational professionals have had much to say on the KS2 results.

Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said:

“The Government has decided that nearly half of pupils have failed at the end of their Primary education. This is not representative of the quality of their education, nor of the hard work that students have put in this year. It will be impossible for parents not to compare this year’s percentage with last year and not to worry that the new, higher expectations mean that their children appear to have performed worse than children in previous years.”

Most professionals’ concerns have been raised around the issue of ‘floor standards’. Currently, Primary schools are expected to meet an attainment threshold of 65% of pupils achieving the National Standard in Reading, Writing and Maths, otherwise they could face an intervention from Ofsted or their Regional Schools Commissioner.

There is of course cause for concern if the attainment threshold is 12% higher than the national average.

There has already been some confusion surrounding this figure. In February Nicky Morgan announced that the number of schools falling below the new standard would only increase by 1% this year. However, a month later the DfE clarified this statement, announcing that the increase would actually be capped at 1 percentage point. Thus potentially pulling another 160 Primary schools below the standard.

A DfE press release on the day the results were released reiterated this 1 percentage point promise and went on to say:

“Today’s results form only one part of how Primary school performance is measured – later in the year results for pupil progress will be published. This, taken in conjunction with today’s attainment figures, will be used to determine which schools require extra support and possibly intervention.”

Meanwhile, Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said:

“Ministers need to take full responsibility for the mess. They rushed and botched implementation of the new KS2 SATs, which meant the children who took the KS2 assessments received less than a third of the curriculum being assessed. And to cap it all, the data released today cannot be meaningfully compared to historic data as the curriculum, assessment materials and reporting methods are all completely different. For this reason we do not believe that the results this year should be reflected in any judgements that Regional Schools Commissioners may make about failing and coasting schools. Children, parents and school staff worked extremely hard this year to make the new flawed SATs work. Teachers have been left exhausted, disillusioned and in despair by their experiences this year; and many good teachers have chosen to leave the profession all together. Children and teachers deserve better than this.”

What have we learnt about scaled scores?

We already knew that a scaled score of 100 would represent the expected standard, however further details were somewhat scanty. The DfE has now published full details of the scaled score arrangements, along with conversion tables.

The main things we have learnt are:

  • Each child now receives a raw score, a scaled score (except where a pupil has too few marks to be awarded the minimum scaled score) and either ‘NS’ (expected standard not achieved) or ‘AS’ (expected standard achieved).
  • The range of scaled scores available for each KS2 test is the same and will stay the same in future years: 80 is the lowest scaled score that can be awarded and 120 is the highest possible scaled score.
  • There are no scaled score equivalents to the Teacher Assessment concepts of ‘working towards the expected standard’ or ‘working at greater depth within the expected standard’.

What are the likely implications for assessment reform?

Despite the controversy surrounding these results, the DfE seems keen to push on with these new tests. The most likely long-term ramifications of this relate to the proposed Year 7 resits.

According to current Government plans, pupils who “fail to meet the expected standard” in English and Maths will be required to resit the tests at Secondary school, in Year 7.

This is not expected to come into force until September 2017, but Julie McCulloch, from the Association of School and College Leaders, has said that secondary school members at ASCL were “unanimous” in their opposition to the proposal, adding that these SATs results “exacerbated” Secondary schools’ concerns about the resits – such as the impact on pupils’ self-esteem and on the Year 7 curriculum.

Russell Hobby also commented:

““The Government also plans to introduce resits of SATs in the autumn of 2017. Although this year’s students are spared that joy, if these results are any guide, nearly half of students could be forced to resit SATs at Secondary school. This is hardly helpful.”

Despite current plans to delay the resits until 2017, the Government is expected to release more details in a consultation in September, and sample materials are expected to be published in December –the same month in which the DfE has promised to declare its judgments on under-performing Primaries.



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