Sats: More than 650 primaries below floor standard following tougher tests

Primary schools educating around 200,000 children are considered to be under-performing in the wake of changes to Sats

Eleanor Busby

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More than 650 primary schools have fallen below the government's floor standard this year, official figures show, after a year of controversial changes to primary assessment. 

Figures from the new performance tables reveal that 665 mainstream primaries in England fell below the government's floor standard for the academic year 2015-16 – 11 fewer than last year.

That amounts to 5 per cent of primaries below the threshold this year and follows a government pledge that no more than 6 per cent would be below the benchmark following the introduction of tougher Sats. 

But the statistics show wide regional variations across the country. In London, only 1 per cent of schools did not reach the government’s targets on performance, meanwhile in the South West and East Midlands 7 per cent of schools fell below the floor standard.

Schools are considered under-performing if fewer than 65 per cent of pupils fail to reach the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, or if they fail to make sufficient progress in these three key areas.

The figures out today confirm that 477 primary schools would be classed as ‘coasting’ – a new measure to help the government identify where intervention is needed.

Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) will decide whether coasting schools need extra support to improve, and maintained schools could be forced to become academies.

In October, education secretary Justine Greening said that no decisions on intervention would be made on the basis of 2016 data alone following major changes to primary assessment.

But the leader of the National Association of Head teachers (NAHT) has said the 2016 data should never have been published following a tumultuous year for primary assessment. 

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “This data is not worth the paper it is written on. The government itself has said that it cannot be used to trigger interventions in schools, nor can it be compared to previous years.

“Parents should not be distracted by the 65 per cent attainment benchmark, which is based on badly designed and rapidly changing tests.”

He added: “This year we saw the SATs system descend into chaos and confusion. Delayed and obscure guidance, papers leaked online, mistakes in test papers and inconsistent moderation made this year unmanageable for school leaders, teachers, parents and pupils.

“The data gathered in primary assessment during 2016 is misleading. We warned the government that publishing this data in league tables could lead the public and parents to make poor judgements about a school’s performance, but it has still chosen to do so.”

Speaking to MPs at the education select committee on primary assessment yesterday, Mr Hobby said this year’s implementation of reforms to primary assessment were the worst he had ever seen.

On today's figures, schools minister Nick Gibb said: "This year's SATs are the first that test the new primary school curriculum in English and maths that we introduced in 2014.

“This new curriculum raises expectations and ensures pupils become more accomplished readers and are fluent in the basics of arithmetic, including times-tables, long division and fractions.

"Many schools have responded well to this more rigorous curriculum, supporting their pupils to be leaving primary school better prepared for the demands of secondary school."

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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