Key stage 2 national tests and the shared mission

Thanks to Michael Tidd for this article. 

There’s something of a murmuring among Year 6 teachers that when it comes to SATs, if things go well then the credit is shared across the school, but when things go wrong, it’s the Year 6 team who get the blame. Of course, those who work in other year groups would probably just as soon argue that it’s the reverse that’s true.

The truth is, of course, that Year 6 results are inevitably a representation of the work done by all of the teachers who come into contact with children during their time with us. That’s never been truer than today, as we emerge from analysing the results of the first of the new style tests.

For the past couple of years we have been working blind, only able to draw on our own experience of the curriculum to estimate what might crop up and how best we can prepare our pupils. Now we’ve seen the tests and frameworks for real, we can start to make some more informed changes to how we work – and not only in Year 6.

Naturally thoughts will go first to identifying the gaps that need filling for current Year 6 cohorts. Good assessment in school, linked to our knowledge of the tests can help here. The Question-Level Analysis available in Raise Online will be a useful tool to help spot where pupils fell down in 2016, and on-going assessment such as through the Rising Stars Progress Tests can help to ensure that children are securing that knowledge now. That applies across the Key Stage, as much of the required content in Year 6 is met earlier in the curriculum. Never before has it been so true that the foundations laid earlier in the Key Stage are vital for success in the tests.

Schools that have used the Optional Tests SET A in Years 5 and 6 also now have the advantage of the comparisons undertaken by Rising Stars that help to give an idea of pupils who are on-track to meet the expected standard by Year 6. These are invaluable for setting targets and for identifying those pupils who would benefit from some additional support to meet their expectations.

It's important, too, for every year to play its part in teaching the new content required in the curriculum. Two of the most significant changes to the tests were the introduction of the written arithmetic paper, and the new harder spelling test. In both cases, the skills taught in Year 3 and Year 4 made up a good part of each test; by ensuring that children are secure in this knowledge in the early years of Key Stage 2, we can free up the time in Years 5 and 6 to develop that knowledge even further and tackle the next level of challenge on offer.

In Reading, too, the expectations have changed hugely, not least in the volume of reading to be completed in the test. While there will naturally still be a role for test technique and preparation in Year 6, no amount of ‘booster’ will help to provide children with the broad and in-depth reading experience they’ll need: that will have to be part of a whole-school approach that involves challenging texts – and the questions that accompany them.

It’s always been the case that attainment in Year 6 is a result of the work of the whole school. There can be no room for all the credit or blame ending up in one place: it has to be a shared mission.



english, formative assessment, national tests, reading, summative assessment

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