Friday, 5 October 2007

Successful SATs marking appeal

The BBC today reported on a story that both really amused me and terribly annoyed me. A primary school is celebrating after successfully appealing against its Sats results - and getting them reduced.

Teachers at Ash Green Primary in Mixenden, West Yorkshire, knew it was unlikely 98% of the Year 6 pupils would have reaching the expected standard. Even worse, 70% were said to have reached the next level up. Checking the scripts, they saw the problem lay with the marking of writing.

An appeal resulted the scores going down to 83% and 20%. A total of 33 of the 53 pupils had their levels reduced. Acting head teacher Mungo Sheppard said the exam board, Edexcel, had sent the school a £100 re-marking invoice for the 20 results it had not amended. The bill will go unpaid.

"We were really quite angry because the original results made a mockery of our teacher assessment," he said. "We had children who had been given 50 out of 50 for writing. I have never known that in 10 years here." The school had confidence in its internal monitoring system - praised by Ofsted inspectors, who called the school "outstanding". The governors sanctioned an appeal.

Children were told they had done very well and the school was proud of them, but they and their parents were warned about what was happening. The school also alerted the secondary schools to which the 11-year-olds were moving this term, so they did not have unreasonably high expectations of them. And it was mindful that, in the target-setting culture that governs England's schools, it would be in trouble if its results next year and the year after fell back from such a high level.

"You have year-on-year targets and to have had those results, that would be completely unsustainable, would be a nightmare," Mr Sheppard said. "We hope the children will achieve as highly as they can. But to get results you cannot possibly sustain because they are wrong is doing us no favours."

But the case also raises wider concerns for Mr Sheppard, given that it seems likely the examiner concerned would have dealt with scripts from a number of schools - and used the same approach. "It's not certain that other schools have questioned this. You might think that this may be representative of other markers - or maybe there's somebody so off beam the other way and schools are getting results that are rather harsh. You have to question a little bit the quality assurance side of this."

I applaud Mr Sheppard for having the courage to campaign against this. How on earth can schools have faith in the SATs results if they can't be marked properly. I would hate to be an English SATs marker - but surely it cannot be so difficult to do it. 50/50 in the writing test. I think all teachers agree that they would struggle to get that!!

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