Headteachers will soon find out how their Year 6 pupils performed in this year’s Sats tests – and how they compare to the rest of the country.
Each school is due to receive its own results at around midnight tonight. The Department for Education will then release the national results in the morning.
"They are high-stakes tests," Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers' union said. "There are issues of reputation and standing in the community. We want to reinforce this message that a single year's data is not a reliable record of school performance."
The wait for the results can be nervewracking. The government has said that a single year's data alone will not be used to trigger interventions in a school – in the past, poor results could lead to forced academisation – but the data is still monitored carefully.
The merits of whether it is best to stay up late, but risk not being able to sleep afterwards, or get up early, and risk not being able to get to sleep before – are already being debated.
Around 500,000 children took tests in reading, maths and spelling, punctuation and grammar (Spag) in May. Teachers are also asked to submit their assessments of pupils’ writing.
The results of the teacher assessments of pupils’ writing will be particularly closely scrutinised this year, after concerns that results are not comparable across the country.
A training system was introduced this year to counter the problems of inconsistency in 2016, but two-thirds of moderators incorrectly assessed pupils’ work when tested earlier this year. “It was chaos last year and the theory was that this training would solve that problem – it’s just created different chaos,” Michael Tidd, deputy head of Edgewood Primary in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, said at the time.
The reading test, which last year had pupils in tears, was generally considered to be “kinder” to pupils this year.
But there was a more mixed reaction to the maths papers, with some teachers saying they had left children in tears while others said that the toughest questions simply reflected the wide range of pupils' abilities.
The publication tomorrow will include the thresholds for reaching the expected standard in each subject.
Mr Tidd said: “Teachers still feel very uncertain about what to expect from the results. Having been used to a very familiar system, we still feel very much in the dark about how the thresholds might fall.
“I suspect that the more manageable reading test means we’ll quite likely see thresholds rise by a couple of points. The picture is less clear for other subjects, but I think teachers generally are prepared for some volatility. This cohort has had longer to prepare for these tests since the new curriculum arrived so, presumably, we’ll see a rise in results…but by how much remains to be seen.”
Mr Hobby agreed that teachers will only have a little more idea of what to expect than they did last year. "It is only the second year of the system," he said. "And even if people did get used to it it doesn't mean it's a good system."
After the “chaotic” introduction of the new Sats last year, the government has recently been consulting on changes to primary assessment.
The proposals put forward by the DfE included changing the writing assessment from a “secure fit” system, in which pupils have to get every question right in order to be judged as reaching the expected standard, to a “best fit” system.
This could be brought in as early as next summer, the consultation said.
Other proposals in the consultation included the return of a baseline assessment in the reception year, which would then mean the removal of statutory key stage 1 Sats and a times tables check – which could be taken either at the end of Year 4, during Year 5 or during Year 6.