What are you suggesting now?

Oh dear, the Conservatives are at it again with a marked lack of understanding of how education and testing works.

They’ve outlined a plan to make children who ‘fail’ their end-of-primary tests in English and Maths to resit them in secondary school.

First of all, this falls into the age-old trap expressed by the saying ‘You don’t fatten a pig by weighing it’. Sadly (and this has happened from both Labour and the Conservatives for quite some time), there is a political idea that more testing equals better education. Given that children in their final year of primary school get an increasingly narrow ‘teach to the test’ curriculum, this is evidently not the case.

But the other problem with this suggestion is how the ‘SATs’ as they are colloquially known is that they were never designed as a pass/fail exam. They were designed to measure a child’s progress from Key Stage 1/infants and give a snapshot of their performance at the end of primary, graded by levels. The fact that the combined results of each year group are used as a kind of pass/fail and ‘league table’ measuring for schools is contrary to the original spirit is a whole different blog post.

Level 4 was designated the acceptable level for children at age 11, although I am unaware of much, if any, research that matches expected attainment at different ages with National Curriculum levels. The original thought was pretty much that level 4 represented the average level of expectation. Anyone who knows even a little about statistics will recognise a Bell curve:

A Bell curve succinctly registers that while around 80% of people will fall in an ‘average’ range, approximately 10% will fall above or below this range.

In other words, it’s highly unlikely that you will get much over 80% of any group to meet an ‘average’ expectation.

So, what’s the point of re-measuring something, which is

  1. not meant to be a pass/fail exam, but a grading
  2. something that may not be met by that ‘trailing’ 10% the year after (this group is likely to include pupils with special needs)

And what does it show a year on? The rest of the pupils will be expected to have moved further on again…

<rant over>


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