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SATs data not comparable, says Morgan

Primary school test results should not be compared to previous years, due to tougher questions

Posted by Stephanie Broad | July 05, 2016 | Teaching

Results of primary school SATs tests have been published today, which have this year been based on the new National Curriculum and made more difficult. Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, said schools should not interpret lower marks as a decline in pupil performance, as the questions are tougher. 

 Julie McCulloch, Primary and Governance Specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “It is essential to understand that the standard pupils are expected to achieve in these tests has been raised significantly from previous years. It is therefore meaningless to compare this year’s headline results with those from previous years, and these statistics must be handled with extreme caution in terms of trying to reach any judgements.

“Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioners need to be mindful of these issues when using this data and should ensure it is set in the wider context of a school’s performance.

“Schools have worked extremely hard to meet the demands of the new curriculum and ensure children were as prepared as they could be for these tests. They deserve great credit for the way in which they have dealt with these challenges.” 

Today’s results show:

  • 53% of pupils met the new expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics
  • 66% of pupils met the new expected standard in reading
  • 70% of pupils met the new expected standard in mathematics
  • 72% of pupils met the new expected standard in grammar, punctuation and spelling
  • 74% of pupils met the new expected standard in writing

Following the publication of results, Nicky Morgan said: "We know we are asking more, but we’re doing that because we are committed to giving young people the best start in life - and today’s results show there is no limit to pupils’ potential. 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, but despite that the majority of pupils have achieved above and beyond the new expected standard."

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said the government had made ‘serious mistakes’ in the planning and implementation of SATs this year. 

“These results cannot and must not be compared to data from previous years,” he said. “If they are, they will give a misleading picture of school performance.

“Children who sat Key Stage 2 SATs this year are the first to be tested on the new National Curriculum. They have only had two years to master a curriculum which should normally be taught over a four-year period. The government is proud to say this new curriculum is harder than in previous years, but seemingly happy to put these children at an automatic disadvantage.”

“School leaders feel that these factors make it reasonable to hold off publishing this year’s data and we made this suggestion in a letter to the Secretary of State on 23rd May. However, despite restating a ‘commitment to listen to and work closely with teachers and head teachers’ in her reply, the Secretary of State remained determined to publish the 2016 scores anyway, regarding this as ‘essential to make school performance clear to parents.’   

James Bowen, director of NAHT Edge, the middle leaders’ union, and member of the Assessment Review Group, says: “SATs have become a box-ticking exercise for children in order to satisfy bureaucrats and politicians. The poorly designed tests and last minute changes we have seen this year do not add value to teaching.  

“Increasingly, parents and teachers agree that high-stakes statutory tests like SATs can actually make it harder to find out what children are really learning and to improve their education. Schools and parents cannot face another year of assessment chaos. We reaffirm our offer to the government to work with us to get it right next year. There is much that we can achieve if we work together.” 

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