Memorandum submitted by Miss Barbara J Cook,

Guillemont Junior School, Farnborough, Hampshire

 

National Key Stage Tests

 

The current situation

 

How effective are the current Key Stage tests?

 

Key stage 2 tests are carried out at our school. They take a lot of time and in order to prepare children adequately, broad curriculum time is lost. The tests very closely match our own rigorous Teacher Assessment systems.

 

Do they adequately reflect levels of performance of children and schools, and changes in performance over time?

 

The tests very closely match our own rigorous Teacher Assessment systems. We keep and analyse year on year / cohort data and implement focused improvement plans based on this data

 

Do they provide assessment for learning (enabling teachers to concentrate on areas of a pupil's performance that needs improvement)?

 

No they test specific knowledge and application of facts in a snapshot timescale. Many factors can influence a child's performance in a formal test on a set date and time. This year one boy completed a test on the day of his mother's funeral.

 

Does testing help to improve levels of attainment?

 

Yes, carefully organised revision and practice can boost performance but this is only applicable to the tests themselves. Whether this attainment is sustained over time or applied to new situations is not proven.

 

Are they effective in holding schools accountable for their performance?

 

No - in our opinion they depress and de-motivate teachers who struggle to make children achieve grades they are not quite ready for. These days there are many other ways of holding schools accountable. The publication of league tables is the worst aspect

 

How effective are performance measures such as value-added scores for schools?

 

Effective. Schools could analyse these by completing and marking their own National Tests. Schools don't want to cheat and should be trusted more then assessment for learning would be really effective

 

Are league tables based on test results an accurate reflection of how well schools are performing?

 

Not at all - they are a narrow measure of a tiny part of school curriculum and experience

 

To what extent is there 'teaching to the test'?

 

Widespread and to the great detriment of children's development as it cuts down opportunities

 

How much of a factor is 'hot-housing' in the fall-off in pupil performance from Year 6 to Year 7?

 

I should think it plays a part. However, the Year 7 curriculum and methodology may not be very exciting or allow for independent work.

 

Does the importance given to test results mean that teaching generally is narrowly focused?

 

Very narrowly focussed as we are all under such pressure to 'perform'

 

What role does assessment by teachers have in teaching and learning?

 

In my school Teacher Assessment (moderated and monitored) plays a huge part in teaching and learning. The role of TA would be greatly enhanced if teachers in each school were trained and could then mark the pupils' scripts. These could be moderated by Local Authorities. When we practice the tests, teachers learn so much about the pupils and can see what they need to plan as next steps. Some element of testing would be valuable but the National, external marking, league table model now needs a re-think.

 

The future

 

Should the system of national tests be changed?

 

Yes to reduce the overall cost, to make the information more suitable for planning next steps and transition between Key Stages, to involve teachers more and to abandon League Tables

 

If so, should the tests be modified or abolished?

 

Marking should be in the schools to save money and make the process more focussed on AFL

 

The Secretary of State has suggested that there should be a move to more personalised assessment to measure how a pupil's level of attainment has improved over time. Pilot areas to test proposals have just been announced. Would the introduction of this kind of assessment make it possible to make an overall judgment on a school's performance?

 

It depends if you think the test results are the only / best method of judging a school's performance. Some of my parents openly state that the SATs are in existence to test the teachers and see which ones are the best not test the children!!

 

Would it be possible to make meaningful comparisons between different schools?

 

Yes if schools worked in local groups to moderate (like GCSE)

 

What effect would testing at different times have on pupils and schools? Would it create pressure on schools to push pupils to take tests earlier?

 

Schools should resist - but a system where pupils could sit tests at different times would lead to testing all the time

 

If Key Stage tests remain, what should they be seeking to measure?

 

Individual pupil levels of attainment not school performance

 

If, for example, performance at Level 4 is the average level of attainment for an eleven year old, what proportion of children is it reasonable to expect to achieve at or above that level?

 

Well!!!! that depends on the individual children and each cohort of children. If Level 4 is Average there will be some above and some below. What would the Standardised Norm say about this?

 

How are the different levels of performance expected at each age decided on? Is there broad agreement that the levels are appropriate and meaningful?

 

I feel there is now broad agreement at Key Stage 2 that Level 4 is average with Level 5 above average and Level 3 Below Average. However, at Key Stage 1 (where pupils can sit the test more than once) Level 2a should be counted as Average and anything below this (2b, 2c, Level 1 etc) classed as below average.

 

 

 

 

 

June 2007