The latest barrage of standard attainment tests (Sats) are being sat by pupils in England this week. This is one of the things that (as a parent) makes me happy we live in Wales! Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that there isn’t testing in Wales, it is just done differently. Let’s have a look at the two types of tests.
This form of standardised testing in Wales was introduced as part of the Welsh Government’s response to Wales’ poor Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) results, and they are designed to help teachers and parents gauge progress in key skills.
Tests on both sides of the border have courted controversy from animated arguments over responsibility for marking to statistical issues preventing direct comparisons being made and in England, reports of many (very young) pupils struggling with exam stress and anxiety.
As a parent of children who both went through Year 2 SATS, one sailed through fairly cheerily and got solid results. The other filled in their name and was then given colouring to do! They both took standardised test in Wales and as parents we only really knew they had happened when we got their results with their school report – I know which one we all prefer!
So, what is the difference between testing either side of the border? Some key points;
What is the reasoning behind the tests?
- The tests were designed to help teachers and parents monitor pupil progress in key skills.
- They show where individual children might need more help to improve their reading and numeracy.
- The UK Government says all children must leave primary school with a good standard of reading, writing and maths.
- The results are used to ensure schools are teaching their pupils the essential knowledge and skills in the subjects that they are being tested in.
When did the tests become different?
- The first national tests were sat by pupils aged seven to 14 in 2013 and were first unveiled in 2011 by the then Education Minister Leighton Andrews.
- The tests filled the void left by SATs, which were phased out in Wales from 2002-2005.
- In 2016 testing became more demanding than previous years, with more expected of pupils in terms of punctuation, spelling, grammar, arithmetic and reasoning.
- In September 2017 it was confirmed that the Y2 SATs will be made non-statutory from 2023.
What are the English tests like?
- The reading tests are made up of short questions based on two or more texts.
- Some questions check how well the text has been understood, others aim to find out if children are able to make judgements about what they are reading.
- There are reading tests in both English and Welsh. Each test takes up to an hour but younger children can take a break part-way through.
- In Year Two, pupils have two papers in reading and two papers in grammar, punctuation and spelling.
- In Year Six, pupils sit one paper in reading and two papers in spelling, punctuation and grammar.
- There is no test for English writing, which is reported using teacher assessment.
What are the numeracy tests like?
- There are two kinds of numeracy tests: the procedural test, which measures skills in things like numbers, measuring and data.
- And the reasoning test, which measures how well children can use what they know to solve everyday problems.
- English and Welsh versions are available for both tests and each takes up to half an hour, but again, younger children can take a break during the tests.
- In Year Two, pupils sit two papers; one in arithmetic and another in reasoning.
- There are three papers in Year Six; two in reasoning and one in arithmetic.
When will I get test results?
- By the end of the summer term, your child’s school will give you test results for each test that your child has taken, which should be read alongside your child’s annual report.
- The tests provide two kinds of result – an age-standardised score and a progress measure.
- Parents will receive their children’s results by the end of the summer term.
- The UK Government will provide a leaflet to explain how and when the tests will be reported to parents in June.
Should I help my child to prepare for the tests?
- Guidance to schools says they should not practice or revise for the tests or divert any school time to focus on the tests. The idea is to see where pupils are at without revision.
- The Welsh Government says the best way to prepare your child is to make sure that they are not worried or anxious.
- Parents are asked to follow the general advice from schools about supporting their children’s learning throughout the year.
- Many schools provide SATs specific homework and additional SATs based sessions.
Are the results used to measure school performance?
- No, the Welsh Government does not judge schools on their national test results.
- Test results are used to assess individual pupil progress. They are used to find out where they need more help, and where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
- For children – the SATs are used to form target grades for secondary school. Though the majority do their own testing as well…
- For schools – the SATs are used as a factor (along with many others) in judging a school’s effectiveness.
No judgement and no decision here as to which system is the best, most valid or even least intrusive to learning. But, if you do see anyone who is in anyway involved with Year 6 in England this week; whether student, staff, parent or other, spare them a thought. No matter how amazing the school, no matter how supportive and nurturing they may need that little extra from you. Year 6 SATs are tough on everyone and there is always that niggle that you aren’t enough.
Just remember Year 6 SATs are taking place during Mental Health Awareness Week!