The government has defended tests for sixth-graders across the UK, after some parents and teachers said one on this week’s Sats was too difficult.
One principal said the English reading test consisted of several “GCSE-level” questions. Some students were in tears and did not finish the paper.
It prompted a debate among teachers and parents about the purpose of the Sats.
A Department for Education (DfE) spokesman told BBC News the tests were “designed to be challenging”.
The government has previously said it was working to ensure that “all checks are in place”.
But when asked to comment further on the English reading, the DfE added that the Sats must be difficult “to measure the extent of achievement in the range of abilities, including stretching the most capable children.” .
The government has advised that the details of the test should not be released until all Year 6 students have had a chance to take the test.
The Sats are tests administered by Grades 2 and 6 students to measure reading, writing, and math skills – and to check school performance.
Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, principal of Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham, said she was “heartbroken” to see her pupils struggle to pass the reading.
Ms Hewitt-Clarkson, whose two teenage daughters have taken GCSEs over the past few years, said: “I’m not a secondary English teacher, but… some of the questions are definitely at that level. . It’s not fair .”
Ms. Hewitt-Clarkson hopes the Standards and Testing Authority – a division of the DfE – may consider lowering the pass this year, given how difficult it is for some students.
“For kids who fail – or don’t meet the standard – when we know in class they have achieved at the age-related expectations or above, it just shows all the the failure of a system depends almost entirely on a test,” she said.
The government said it converts children’s raw test scores into “proportional scores” so that tests can be compared, even if the difficulty is different.
Heather, from Ipswich, said her son noticed this week’s Sats progress “absolutely fine”.
She told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Our school puts very little pressure on our children about Sats. “It’s been a pretty positive experience.”
But Davina Bhanabhai, a writer from Leeds, said her daughter was “really confused” by Wednesday’s English reading.
She told BBC News: “Children are born with distraught, anxious and stressed. These three emotions are not what we want to teach our children to experience.”
“Teachers are stressed because that is the only measure by which they can show that they are doing their job,” she added. “[The children] want to do well, so naturally stress will be passed on [to them].”
Two education unions, the National Education Union (NEU) and the NAHT, raised concerns about the article.
The NEU’s general secretary, Mary Bousted, added that there are “better ways of assessing students” than Sats.
Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis UK, a trust that runs schools across England, said the test had left “many children in tears, stress and anxiety”.
He said the texts selected in the reading test were “inappropriate in that they were elitist” and referred to experiences “completely out of the cultural context of children living in poverty.” “.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “Texts are boring, they’re not interesting and educational should be as fun as anything else”.
Isabel Nisbet, executive director of exam watchdog Ofqual from 2007 to 2011, said a fair test is one that “students can relate to and the content makes sense”. for them”.
She said the tests would be graded consistently and she was “quite confident” the grading “would take into account how difficult the test was”.
“The problem is there are other kinds of injustice… and especially one kind of injustice if people’s legitimate expectations are not met,” she told the Today programme.
“For example, if they’ve been practicing specific types of writing, or specific types of reading, and then the test comes along and suddenly they find that’s not what they expected, and that’s one thing. uncomfortable.”
What are sats?
The Standard Assessment Tests, or Sats, are tests that children must take in Grade 6, at the end of Critical Stage 2. These are national program assessments for grammar. , English punctuation and spelling, English reading and math.
Government Standards and Testing Agency speak The purpose of the Sats test is to:
- help measure student progress
- determine if they need additional help in certain areas
- evaluate the performance of schools
- National performance data production.
Children also sit Sats in Year 2, at the end of Main Stage 1.
National curriculum tests were canceled in 2020 and 2021, during the pandemic.