Sats: DfE publishes 2018 tests and mark schemes

Expert says mark scheme for reading paper is 'not humane and over-reliant on factuality', as teachers complain test favours middle class pupils

Martin George

Sats, labour, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour, Year 6 Sats, Year 2 Sats, Teacher assessment

The DfE has published the exam papers and mark schemes for Sats taken by around 600,000 year 6 pupils earlier this month.

One expert condemned the Spag paper as “dreadful”, while saying the scheme for the reading paper was “not humane”.

The full papers, and the marks schemes, were put on the DfE website today:

Some teachers raised concerns that the questions for the reading paper favoured children from middle class backgrounds, and would disadvantage children with English as an additional language.

The paper had three sections: a factual text about giant pandas, a poem entitled Grannie, and an extract from Roger Norman’s book Albion’s Dream.

One teacher writing on the Tes forums said: “I thought the questions focused too heavily on phrases and sayings, lending themselves to middle class and English-as-a-first-language pupils.”

Another wrote: “I agree that it was not easy for EAL students due to the number of questions reliant on potentially challenging phrases and sayings.”

However, a number of other teachers said the paper was fair.

Peter Thomas, chair of the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE), said that while he was “wholly sympathetic to the assessment of English”, he had criticisms of the marking scheme for the reading and Spag papers.

He told Tes that Grannie was "a poem that invites response, connection with their own lives and connection with life at large – this is why we give poems to children to read, to resonate with their own experience and to give them empathy with other peoples’ experiences".

But he said the mark scheme did not give pupils any marks for "response or relevance or inference".

Mr Thomas added: “I think they have abused the poem in the interests of easy measurable assessment of what is easily measurable and assessed.”

He concluded: “It’s a model for assessing reading that is not humane and is over-reliant on factuality”.

Mr Thomas branded the Spag paper “dreadful”, adding that he had been “hurling it across the table in disbelief”.

He criticised the fact that all questions were given one mark no matter how hard they were, saying this “did not represent the cognitive or the affective dimensions of response”.

However, he said this year’s Sats were “better” than last year’s, because “there was not the same absurd insistence on the fronted adverbial as a merit”, and because in the reading paper “there was some modest concession to some questions being more cerebrally taxing than others by giving them two marks instead of one”.

Some teachers reacting to the maths papers criticised a “narrow” coverage of the curriculum, while one teacher on the Tes forums criticised the maths papers for having “so many questions designed to trick children”.

Another teacher wrote: “It’s the way they feel the need to wrap the maths up in such wordy questions that is so totally unnecessary and does a real disservice to those children who aren’t so strong on the literacy side.

“There was once a time when such children could excel at maths, but as these tests now reflect more of a general IQ-style test of intelligence I think there is much less chance now of that happening.”

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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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