Friday, 22 May 2009

Science after SATs

Here is an interesting article about the future of Science after SATs in the TES.

Friday, 15 May 2009

SATs change affects Year Six calendar

A report in the TES writes: Plans to move Sats from May to June next year have thrown hundreds of primaries’ school trips into limbo and cast doubt over the proposed primary leaving certificate. Heads are also upset that their pupils will now miss out on a lot of what they believe is the most rewarding part of the year and that they will not be with their pupils when they receive their results.

Shifting national tests for 11-year-olds from the second week in May to “the middle of June” was recommended by the Government’s expert group on assessment last week and accepted by ministers who plan to introduce the change from 2010. They believe it will prevent primary teachers from reducing their emphasis on maths and English in the second half of the summer term, leaving pupils “under prepared and out of practice” for secondary school.

But because the exact new Sats date has yet to be fixed, schools that want to take pupils on residential activity weeks in the summer term and are now being expected to pay deposits, do not know whether to confirm their bookings. There are also fears that some could miss out altogether because the window between Sats and the end of term, when most schools want to book the trips, will now be so much shorter.

The change threatens another of the expert group’s recommendations - the primary graduation certificate designed to recognise Year 6 pupils’ achievements across a broad range of areas. The experts wanted it to “highlight the child’s strengths before he or she progresses to secondary school”. But, according to the group, the biggest measure of their academic achievements - Sats results - “will not be available before the start of the autumn term”.

Janis Burdin, head of Moss Side Primary School in Leyland, Lancashire, marks her pupils’ achievements with a special leavers assembly, but she will no longer be able to give out academic awards if the Sats results come out the following term. She is also unhappy that she will have less time to ask for re-marks and will not be with pupils when their results arrive. If someone has not done as well as expected we will reassure them and where they have done very well we will share their elation,” she said. “But that will all be lost.”

Many primaries take pupils away on activity weeks after the Sats. JCA, a company that organises such trips for hundreds of schools, has already been contacted by several worried about what will happen next year. Janie Burt, managing directorof JCA, said: “It is not clear what is happening regarding the timetable for Sats and most schools like to book 12-18 months in advance, so this could prevent many having the opportunity to take their Year 6 group away.”

Maths Papers A and B and Mental Maths

To end the SATs week the children tried the Maths Papers.

Paper A: I didn't think this was an easy paper, but it was do-able. The children at school worked well, but it was frustrating that things they can do in class just went out of the heads for the SATs. The number of children that weren't sure how to do the multiplication question!! The Equivalent fractions question was difficult for them too, even though they can do it in class! There were only a couple of explanation questions which is good!

Paper B: I thought this was comparable with Paper A in terms of difficultly. Once again the children rose to the occasion and did really well. The square number question infuriated me - the number of children who wrote 13, 14 and 15 instead of the square numbers.

Mental Maths: What a variety of topics covered in the test! I thought that the questions were of varying difficulty as you would expect. But question 20 was horrible: Four oranges cost 95p. How much does each orange cost to the nearest penny?

So that's SATs all done with for another year. Now we have to wait and see if another marking fiasco develops over the next few months. We all have to pray that Mr Balls finally finds his and makes this the last year that children have to endure this damaging effect to their education.

There have been a number of tweets about the SATs over this last week. Search for #SATs to read what people have had to say on Twitter!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Reading Comprehension SATs

Today it was the last of the English SATs - the Reading Comprehension paper.

Today the children had to read a series of letters and notes to a boy who decided to live in his tree house. This was really funny and the children said how much they'd enjoyed reading them. This might be a really good idea for a letter writing project next year!

They also had to read an insert about an environmentally friendly house called the Earthship. Again, this was interesting and the children enjoyed it.

I felt that the questions were fair and do-able. They did, I felt, involve more writing than usual. There weren't many tick the box, join up the statements or write in numbers questions. Most of the questions needed a short phrase or sentence to answer.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

English Writing SATs

Overall I was pleased with today's Writing SATs.

The only paper I wasn't keen on was the short writing task. The children had to write a description of a busy place. Not too bad if you can imagine somewhere busy. It really helped to think of somewhere busy that you had actually been to. But describing has never been a strong point for my literacy class (Set Two). We have focused such a lot on organising and structuring work but this short writing task didn't need any of it. However it did involve lots of VCOP so that was good. I was disappointed when I spotted a few pupils' descriptions had turned into a story...

The Spelling Paper wasn't too bad but there were a few tricky words, 'fascinated' for one. There were a couple of tricky words for the reader too!!

The Long Writing Task was fantastic. For the second year running the genre was a genre we study in Year Six - report writing. The task was virtually identical to the Pack-it-in-Bag paper from about 10 years ago, and luckily my class had tried this just a month ago! You could see their eyes light up as they read it!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Science SATs

Science Paper A
A good variety of questions (humans, investigations, forces, plants, solids/liquids/gases, light and electricity). The questions made a lot of use of diagrams and pictures.

Science Paper B
Lots of reading in this paper making it more demanding. I wasn't too keen on the Heart Rate question, nor the Shadows and Space where I found the questions a little confusing, with unusual contexts.

I can't believe that there was nothing on animals, sound or micro-organisms.

Any thoughts?

Use to read about #SATs.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Science SATs to be scrapped

It's hard to believe the timing of the news about Science SATs. In our school we've just spent five school weeks revising for the Science SATs, and just a few days before the children get stuck in, they get the news that next year's Science SATs won't even take place. How frustrating for this year's children! I'm sure it's going to have a negative effect on this year's Science results, too. After all the children are now bound to think that they are pointless. What's the point - they are about to be scrapped!

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the SATs being scrapped altogether, but once again Ed hasn't got the Balls to do the right thing and has only agreed to drop one of the three subjects. Teacher assessment clearly gives a better representation of a child's ability. But, for the time being, apparently tests give a better indication of standards in English and Maths.

If the SATs are set to continue, I wonder how long it will be before an ICT SAT is introduced...

The Guardian reports:
Ed Balls, the education secretary, today backed a drive to improve teacher assessment to the point where it is robust enough to replace national Sats tests in England.

Accepting a report from an expert group on assessment, he announced that Sats tests in maths and English for 11-year olds would be retained, but tests in science would be scrapped in favour of teacher assessment.

The review argued that while the current tests were beneficial and gave parents objective information, teacher assessment provided a richer picture of children's learning, and it appeared to open the way for scrapping Sats in the long term. This type of national testing was dropped in
Wales and is not used in Scotland.

The group, including the former chief inspector Sir Jim Rose, urged the government to "invest in, strengthen and monitor the reliability of teacher assessment, to judge whether a move away from externally marked national tests might be viable at a future date".

Rose told a press briefing: "Clearly if you had a situation where you had teacher assessment that was so robust that you were confident the information it was delivering was as good, or better, than national testing, then by God wouldn't you go for it? Meanwhile, you would want to run both together, wouldn't you? We want a belt and braces job."

But retaining Sats in the short term sets the stage for a confrontation with two of England's biggest teaching unions, the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Teachers, who are to ballot on boycotting next year's tests if they are not scrapped.
A move towards teacher assessment has already happened for seven- and 14-year olds, and will now take place in science at the end of primary school. Single-level tests – taken by children when the teacher thinks they are ready – also involve more teacher input. A pilot study of these tests in 400
schools has been extended for a third year, and they could form part of the eventual replacement for Sats.

League tables based on Sats results will not be abolished, but Balls accepted the expert group's recommendation that report cards sumarising a wider range of information on each school's performance should be developed.