Sats: Was today's reading test fair?

On day two of Sats week, Year 6 were tested on reading – and teachers were generally satisfied with this year's test

Helen Ward

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More than 600,000 10- and 11-year-olds sat the reading test today on the second day of Sats week.

And initial reactions to the test suggested that teachers believed it was "fair".

One teacher on the Tes forums said: “Fairly distributed paper – did what it said on the tin. Text 1 fine, text 2 accessible to middles, text 3 difficult.”

"Very fair test – so suspect the 'pass' mark will be increased. You can't win!" said another.

"A fair ‘challenge’ all in all. Most children were able to finish or get close to finishing. As expected, a big emphasis on language and evidence finding throughout the questions," added another teacher.

But there was some concern that children with English as an additional language (EAL) would struggle.

Test 'difficult for EAL pupils'

One teacher said: "I thought the questions focused too heavily on phrases and sayings, lending themselves to middle-class and English-as-a-first-language pupils. The final text was very difficult and was not appropriate to the reading age of Year 6 children."

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

Reading has been the subject with the lowest proportion of children reaching the expected standard in the previous two years.

When the new “tougher” Sats were introduced in 2016, the reading test was so hard that it reduced children to tears.

Just 66 per cent of children achieved the expected standard that year, compared with 89 per cent achieving the previous expected level 4 in 2015.

And a later Ofqual investigation confirmed that the test, which a quarter of pupils did not finish, had been “unduly hard”.

Last year, the reading test was considered more accessible for children – and results jumped to 71 per cent reaching the expected standard in reading. But this was still a lower pass rate than in writing, maths and spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Before the Sats reforms, reading had been the subject with the highest proportion of children reaching the expected level 4. 

Today's one-hour reading test required children to read a booklet containing three texts and answer questions on what they have read.

This year’s Sats began yesterday with the spelling, punctuation and grammar test. There was concern among teachers that the spellings had been tough. The test consists of two papers: children are asked to spell 20 words which are read out of them and there is also a 45-minute question-and-answer booklet.

Although there are set days for the tests, pupils who are absent may take the test for up to five days after the original test day. This policy was introduced in 2012 to benefit pupils and schools.

Maths tests are due to be taken tomorrow and Thursday.

A respectful message to teachers: We know how important these tests are, but please do not discuss the content as more children will be taking the paper over the next few days.

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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