From the Desk of the Headteacher
May is always an exciting month, the weather gets warmer and the evenings get longer. May is also a time when our Year 6 children sit their end of Key Stage 2 SATs (Statutory Assessment Test or Tasks).
However, are SATs a test of the school or the child?
SATs measure children's progress, but the results are used to compare schools. They started last Monday with tests for 11-year-olds in English grammar, punctuation and spelling and ended on Thursday with Maths.
These results are a process used to hold schools to account for the attainment of their pupils and the progress that they make. Progress is measured by comparing the results of tests taken at the end of Key Stage 1, by seven-year-olds, and those taken at age 11.
Schools are expected to meet a minimum "floor standard". Schools are below the floor standard if under 65% of pupils meet the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics and they fail to make sufficient progress in all three subjects.
In July parents are given their children's scores (the marks they get) and are told whether or not they are at the expected level, above it or working towards this level. The reading and maths test scores are given on a scale of 80 to 120 - with a score of 100 or more meaning a pupil is meeting the expected standard. Writing is assessed by the children's own teachers, who have to decide whether individual pupils are meeting or exceeding the expected standard.
What do primary schools do with the results?
The results of SATs tests taken by 11-year-olds are published each year in primary school league tables produced by the Department for Education. A facility on the website allows users to rank schools in England by different measures, for example to compare schools with the national average and with other local schools.
The league tables are often the first port of call for parents who want to choose schools for their children or simply judge how well schools in their area are doing. However, many education experts say the tables show only how well a particular year group of pupils at a given school has performed in tests or exams. It is almost impossible to contrast one year with another as children differ. It also only tests literacy-reading, writing, spelling, punctuation and grammar.
It can be argued that these SATs results say more about the intake of a school than the teaching and learning that goes on there. These SATs tests reveal nothing about the extra-curricular activities on offer at schools such as science, sport, dance, art and drama or details about a school's pastoral care system. Nor does it say anything about our core values of independence, creativity and respect.
In my time as Headteacher I cannot recollect ever having been asked about SATs scores, but we are often asked about Kent Test results and we get more children to grammar school than any other school in East Kent and last year, in all of Kent, we had the second highest number of children go to a Grammar School - not bad?
How do secondary schools use SATs results?
In this area SATs results are not often used by secondary schools. Most schools also do their own tests to help rate the new arrivals' abilities. The English grammar we have to test children on is never taught again, one question is why should we do it?
How does OFSTED use SATs results?
The test results form a key part of Ofsted inspection reports on schools, although inspectors are also meant to consider other parts of the primary curriculum not included in the tests. However, last year a report by MPs expressed concern that too many inspection reports were overly focused on English and Maths "and can neglect other national curriculum subjects like Science".
Sadly "Ofsted has significant power to influence school behaviour, and neglecting to comment on core parts of the curriculum contributes to the overemphasis on English and Maths teaching at primary school," it said. "The Ofsted framework already includes the importance of a broad and balanced curriculum, but this does not appear to translate into every inspection report," the MPs wrote. The report recommended that "every report should specifically include Science as a core subject alongside English and Maths, as well as a range of other areas of the curriculum and extra-curricular activities".
In October, Ofsted's chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, warned of too much focus on tests and exams too often at the expense of "rich and full knowledge". This is something we fully agree with at St. Stephen’s Junior which is why we can talk about our Diversity Arts Week, Tudor costumes, Hampton Court trip, pond and river dipping, rainforest arts work, auditions for Yr6 Gulbenkian production of Aladdin, and the Porchlight sleepover for 80 children on Friday. These are the key excitements of school that stimulate, enthuse and encourage children to learn.
We say to our children that there is no way for us to test all of the amazing awesome things you have done, can do or will do in the future. All we can do is open the door and to give you as many experiences, opportunities and support to make the most of your time at St Stephen’s Junior School.
Let’s hope the sun shines on all of us this term!
Best wishes, Stuart Pywell
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