DfE is urged to suspend floor standards as concern mounts over key stage 2 SATs results

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: iStock

School leaders have urged ministers to suspend the floor standard this year given that a majority of primary schools face falling below it.

Furthermore, they have warned the government that it would be “irresponsible to hold schools to account” using data from this year’s results.

It comes after the Department for Education (DfE) revealed this year’s key stage 2 SATs results on Tuesday (July 5) – the first to be published under the new, more challenging curriculum and exam regime.

The results show that the percentage of pupils meeting the new expected standard were:

  • 53 per cent of pupils in reading, writing and mathematics.
  • 66 per cent of pupils in reading.
  • 70 per cent of pupils in mathematics.
  • 72 per cent of pupils in grammar, punctuation and spelling.
  • 74 per cent of pupils in writing.

The results have caused instant concern for schools given that the government has set the floor standard at 65 per cent – notably above the average pupil performance.

In light of the results, the government has warned Regional Schools Commissioners and Ofsted inspectors that they must take into account the fact that this is the first year of the new assessment regime when judging primary schools.

However, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, is still angry at the situation schools now find themselves in.

He 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 pupils have put in this year.

“The floor standard is untenable in 2016. The floor standard defines unacceptably poor attainment. It is set at 65 per cent, well above the average performance. The majority of schools will be below the floor, labelled by their government as failures. In reality, they have given their all and performed brilliantly in the face of adversity.

“Fortunately, schools will be able to interpret these results for individual families and children in end-of-term reports, but at a national level it’s clear that this data is meaningless.”

Mr Hobby said that NAHT members had already reported “severe variations” in the way pupils’ work was moderated, which he believes means that the reliability of this part of the assessment process “should also be called into question”.

He continued: “The secretary of state has stressed that this data should not be compared to last year. The simplest way to guarantee that this doesn’t happen is to not publish the data for 2016 in league tables.

“However, the government still insists on making the results public, even though it is clear that it’s not useful for parents to judge either how good a school is or how well their child is performing.

“It would be irresponsible to hold schools to account on the basis of this data.”

As things stand, the SATs attainment figures will be used alongside the new pupil progress measure – due to be published in September – to hold schools to account this year. Overall school-level performance data is due to be published in December.

The high floor standard and lower results are concerning not least because schools that are judged as requiring improvement or inadequate by Ofsted or those that fall below floor standards are liable to be targeted by Regional Schools Commissioners for intervention or academy conversion.

However, education secretary Nicky Morgan has pledged that only one per cent more schools will be allowed to fall below the floor standard this year, “in order to give schools time to adjust to the new system”.

A DfE statement on Tuesday (July 5) also implied that schools should be protected to some degree. It said: “Ministers have advised Regional Schools Commissioners and Ofsted to take into account that this is the first year under a new assessment system when considering school performance.”

This notwithstanding, there have been calls for the government to carry out a review of the new testing regime.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Despite the efforts of teachers and pupils, the value of this year’s test results will be poured over and questioned and schools face the prospect of being held to account unfairly on the basis of this year’s results data.

“The NASUWT reiterates its call for the government to commit to conducting an open review of all of the issues surrounding this year’s tests and ensure that we have a system of assessment that is fit-for-purpose and commands the confidence of teachers and the public.”

Kevin Courtney, acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, echoed the sentiment: “Nicky Morgan and Nick Gibb should apologise to teachers, parents and pupils for what they have done to primary education this year. They should turn a critical lens on the failings of their department, and on their own policies. These policies have produced a system which damages, not supports, children’s learning, and which exhausts the energies of teachers. It should be scrapped.”

With the axing of levels, key stage 2 results are now converted into “scaled scores” with 100 being the expected standard.

Any score below this means the pupil is working “towards the expected standard”, and any score above means the pupil is working “above the expected standard”. Previously the expected standard was a Level 4.

This year the average scaled score in reading is 103, the average scaled score in mathematics is 103, and the average scaled score in grammar, punctuation and spelling is 104.

Ms Morgan said: “As part of this government’s commitment to delivering real social justice, we have raised the bar on what counts as a good enough standard in the 3Rs for our children by the end of primary school.

“We know we are asking more, but we’re doing that because we are committed to giving young people the best start in life. 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.

“I want to thank all those involved in the tests this year – including teachers and parents – for supporting pupils through the transition to a more rigorous system. It is important that all involved see these results for what they are – a reflection of how well children this year have performed against a new curriculum.”

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