Keeping SATs Results in Proportion

This association of teachers and parents welcomes the recently announced initiative by the National Association of Head Teachers and the Association of School and College Leaders to publish more comprehensive statements about children's attainments which the media can use as the basis for league tables. At present there is too narrow a focus on test results in the core skills and everyone needs a more rounded picture of children's lives at their schools. SAT's results are little more than snapshots of performance and can be seriously misleading both to parents and to the teachers who will take the children forward in secondary school.

The greatest weakness in national assessment through testing is that the children's results are used by government as a measure of primary school success. This dual use of the data is deeply unfair. It puts schools which undertake the demanding task of teaching the economically poorest children at a major disadvantage. To "expect" all children, regardless of their background, to achieve the same SAT's Level 4 is unrealistic however hard the children and their teachers work. Reaching Level 3 shows that a sound beginning to learning, say progress towards becoming a reader, has been made. Many such children will make good progress in their later years.

The media attach great importance to fluctuations in the percentages of the age group achieving the expected level yet fail to acknowledge the impact on the overall percentage made by the results of children who find it difficult to learn. Test results in 2013 for half a million children showed that 74% of pupils receiving free meals had achieved the expected level or above compared to 87% of all pupils. The pupil premium is helping to narrow the large attainment gap but too slowly.

The government should stop using SAT's results as a measure of primary schools' success. The children's results can, when used alongside more informative details of progress, be very helpful to teachers and parents. But the monitoring of primary schools' standards nationally is best achieved through sampling on the lines developed by the Assessment of Performance Unit in the past. This association supports the government's current re-examination of national sampling. In this way there is no damaging impact on the curriculum and our focus on the children can be more complete

NASS comment: Summer has seen reports to worry all who educate children. The historical performance gap between haves and have-nots is as wide in 'outstanding' schools as 'inadequate.' NASS knows that small schools are the only learning environment consistently to narrow that gap and inspection evidence across the UK confirms it. The factor driving that success will be the far closer sense of partnership between home and school that small-scale, human-scale operation encourages and creates.

The Blair academies were premised on closing that gap but little evidence of success has emerged. Even for very good large schools, with dynamic, visionary leadership, reaching those vital parents and getting them on board gets just more difficult as the numbers grow. In small schools from the start children see parents they love and teachers they trust taking them in the same directions- effort seems worthwhile and achievement possible.