Testing times ahead!

IMG_0043When I was young, my twin  sister and I used to routinely do each others work at school.Luckily our teacher was very short sighted and never seemed to notice! I was great at spelling, she was brilliant at maths.

All that changed one day towards the end of our time at primary school when we both had to sit in the school hall for an hour , in silence, to do the dreaded ’11 plus’  examination . In those days the 11+  determined who could go to the best schools. I am really pleased that this is no longer the way we allocate school places in Sheffield!

You might have heard lots about the new SATS tests that 7 and 11 year olds are taking this year. Many parents (and some teachers) are very worried about them because they seem to be much harder than they used to be. These new tests have been written to match the revised National Curriculum. This relatively new plan for primary school learning is pitched at a much more ambitious level than it used to be . These changes are part of the government’s  plan for improving standards. It is also exactly right, in my view, to be ambitious for what children can achieve at primary school.

We know that the children at High Hazels Academy have been so well prepared by their teachers that they are ready to take these new tests in their stride. We hope that everyone will do their best and we certainly don’t want anyone to lose any sleep about these new SATs this year!

Last year,as many years before,children  were given a National Curriculum levelled score. The children were aiming to achieve a level 2 or even a level 3 at the end of year 2 and a level 4 or even Level 5 at the end of year 6. Parents understood that the award of level 2 or level 4 meant that the child had reached the required standard for their age. Level 3 and level five was awarded for work at higher ability.

Those numbers or curriculum levels, as they were known, will no longer be used to describe what children can do.  Children are still aiming to produce work and demonstrate learning which is at at the standard expected for their age. The new standard is much higher than it used to be! We in school have a very good idea what this means for children in Y2 and Y6, but we don’t yet know exactly what this will look like across the country in the subjects to be tested.  This is very frustrating but at least every school and primary teacher in England is in the same boat! We are all learning how to use these new  assessments and how to describe ‘Working at Standard’.

These new tests are all part of something called the ‘Interim framework for assessment’. The government have said that they still need to know how well children are learning at key times during their primary school. They want to work with teachers to design better assessments for children going forward. So everyone  will work using these new materials and suggest any changes needed to make the process more accurate and user friendly for the children in the future.

This means that for 2016, Children in year six will sit tests in arithmetic, mathematical reasoning, reading, spelling, punctuation and grammar. Their writing will also be assessed. Children in year two will sit arithmetic, mathematical reasoning and reading tests. They will have writing assessed by their teacher. The spelling, punctuation and grammar tests for year two has had to be abandoned this year after someone in the DFE accidentally published the question paper online as a practise, giving the children who had already tried it an unfair advantage! These essential skills will now be assessed within children’ writing.

This year ‘working at standard’ in every subject tested will be described by a score of 100. Scores below 100 mean that a child has not yet reached the standard required. A score above 100 means that a child has demonstrated greater depth of learning. The score that your child will receive will be scaled and reported to you once every child across the country has taken these tests.

Children who do not reach the standard by the end of  year 6 will have to try again when they go to their next school in year 7. Nobody quite knows how that will work yet but most  agree that children do need to be able to reach ‘standard’ across the basic skills of reading, writing and mathematics in order to access the curriculum set for secondary schools and continue to make good progress in their learning.

Now to be honest with you, nobody ever really  enjoys taking tests! Many teachers and other professionals hope that better ways will be developed to assess what children can do without putting them under the pressure of examination conditions. Currently however, we know that these tests are necessary to show what a child can do on their own and to demonstrate what they have learned.

We tell our children to ‘show off what you can do!’ in any test and to use them as an opportunity to shine. I hope that you too will praise and encourage your children as they prepare to sit these important end of key stage examinations. Teachers have worked very hard to make sure that everyone has the best possible chance to do well. We are very proud of your children for all their hard work .

Good luck everyone- do your best!










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