Judging schools on today's Sats writing scores may be unsafe, data expert warns

1st September 2016 at 18:12
writing moderation
Dr Rebecca Allen's analysis of DfE data suggests consistency moderation of writing assessments has deteriorated to the point where it would be better to only use reading and maths test results

Today's Sats scores point towards moderation of teacher assessments of writing so inconsistent that it would be safer not to judge schools on the results, an education data expert has warned. 

Rebecca Allen, director of Education Datalab, has examined today's key stage 2 data and highlighted the differences between reading test and writing teacher assessment scores within each local authority.

In a blog post on the statistics, she points out that some authorities have very high writing scores, given their reading performance. In contrast, some other authorities have low writing scores, given their reading performance.

“Our suspicion is that consistency in moderation across local authorities is much worse in 2016 than it was in 2015,” Dr Allen writes. "Given these concern about the writing moderation this year, perhaps it would be safer to judge overall performance on maths and reading only." 

Unions highlighted concerns earlier this year about inconsistent moderation in writing after headteachers reported variations in what local authorities were expecting of them.

The Department for Education has said that as long as its guidance is followed the teacher assessments will be consistent and that the Standards and Testing Agency carries out its own moderation on 25 per cent of local authorities to ensure they are abiding by its guidance.

The figures out today show that reading scores vary between 52 per cent of pupils reaching the expected standard in the lowest performing authority of Peterborough and 81 per cent in Richmond-upon-Thames. The writing scores vary between 58 per cent of pupils reaching the expected standard in Calderdale, Dorset and Swindon and 84 per cent in Hackney and Havering.

A DfE Standards and Testing Agency spokesperson said: “We externally moderate a sample of local authorities to judge their moderation model and ensure it is consistent. No concerns were identified with this years’ assessments. Departmental analysis of this year’s results suggests similar levels of variability overall at school level to last year.”



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