Key stage 2 results advice on Starterforfive- Some thoughts

The advice offered was here https://starterforfive.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/key-stage-2-results-by-anonymous/ for those that have no seen it.

I wrote this a while back about KS2 SATs and I think it is still relevant.

https://mylifeasacynicalteacher.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/what-are-exams-for-are-they-fit-for-purpose-ks2/

I will go through the points in the advice one by one:

1: Don’t treat them as accurate, especially if you don’t teach Maths or English.

The reason why it matters if someone teaches Maths or English or not is because the Maths and English KS2 results are often used to generate targets in all subjects (much to the annoyance of every teacher of MFL, Music, Drama, Art and DT that I know). This often result in targets that are insane.

In my experience around 50% of students arrive with a KS2 level that I do not agree with and that they do not achieve in our baseline test. It might not be a million miles off but it’s not the same. It’s very unusual to find students that have KS2 levels that are too low in my experience.

There are reasons why a student might have a KS2 level that does not reflect their ability when they arrive on day 1 of year 7:

  1. They have been well drilled and prepared for their KS2 exams. They have probably not done huge amounts of English and Maths between their SATs and their arrival in my classroom. That’s certainly long enough for them to forget stuff and get rusty and some stuff.
  2. The KS2 SATs are not great tests of mathematical ability. They are at best, in my opinion, a way of crudely ranking pupils in how good they are at KS2 Maths tests. The level pupils arrive with tell me very little about what they can and can’t do. Anyone who makes any assumptions about what pupils can and cannot do based on their KS2 SATs is almost certainly going to be wrong.
  3. The KS3 curriculum is broader and deeper than the KS2 curriculum. A Level 5 at KS3 does not mean the same thing as a Level 5 at Ks2
  4. Levels are a nonsense of the highest order. Giving pupils a level that supposedly reflects their ability is and always has been fundamentally flawed. Giving pupils sub-levels is taking that nonsense and wrapping it in some top level insanity.

None of this is the fault of primary school teachers. In the last three schools I have worked in primary teachers have done an exceptional job in getting the pupils to get the results they have. That doesn’t mean that the levels generated tell us much about the pupils maths ability though.

2: If the child had a reader, the results will be even less accurate.

If a pupil has a reader in their KS2 Sats it doesn’t necessarily follow that they will have one in my lesson. It may therefore appear that they are less able than their KS2 level suggests. On top of that students with scribes, readers, prompters etc getting more help than they technically should is not a new issue or one restricted to primary. Given the unlikely results that some SEN pupils arrive in Year 7 with (The student with a level 5 in maths that could neither read nor count springs to mind) it is ridiculous to suggest there is no issue here.

3: Baseline assess your students on entry, so you have an argument come performance review time.

Given that large numbers of pupils arrive with levels that do not reflect their ability this is sensible advice. The last 2 schools I have worked in have done baseline tests. The results, as I mentioned above, are frequently a bit lower than their KS2 level. Sometimes they are much lower. Without the baseline test my colleagues and I would not have a leg to stand on when the pupils fail to achieve the target grades they are given based on their KS2 SATs.

4: If it’s a teacher assessment, it’s inflated further.

Teachers have PM targets to meet. This inevitably impacts to a greater or lesser extent on the levels they give when doing teacher assessments. This is particularly true if there are sub-levels involved. Sub-levels are a made up nonsense so if someone has a target of 5a and in my opinion they are level 5 then I’ll have no qualms about giving them a 5a in my teacher assessment. Why would I make a rod for my own back by saying they haven’t met a nonsensical made up target by giving them a different nonsensical, made up level instead? Why would anyone? Every class I have ever inherited from another teacher has had inflated end of year teacher assessments. I expect it and I don’t let it bother me greatly. After all someone is inheriting the pupil I gave a 5a to.

5: If you don’t teach Maths or English, assume they’ve been taught almost nothing about your subject.

I genuinely have no idea if this is the case or not. I would assume it is more true in some subjects than others.

I don’t see the advice as an attack on primary teachers so much as an attack on a system that makes no sense at all. However I can see how some might see things differently.

My experience tells me that if points 1-4 were liberally sprinkled with the word “probably” they would be reasonable advice.

I have no idea about point 5.

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