Primaries still concerned over marking of KS2 writing tests

17th July 2009 at 01:00
Teachers want Sats papers re-marked after answers of widely varying quality were given the same scores

Primary schools across England are continuing to raise concerns about the quality of marking of key stage 2 writing tests.

Stuart Pywell, head of St Stephen's Junior School in Canterbury, said he had been alarmed by the range of seemingly badly marked papers his pupils had received.

In one case, two very different pieces of short writing about a busy place were awarded the same mark for composition and effect. One piece was written by a pupil who had only learnt English for a year, while the other was by a pupil who used livelier descriptions. Yet both received three out of eight marks (see panel).

Mr Pywell said: "This is only one of many possible examples of badly marked scripts from our current Year 6.

"The implications for everyone of poor results caused by incorrect marking are grave: Ofsted inspections are triggered; children lose confidence; teachers are disheartened; the school's reputation suffers. We believe that if we are to have national tests, then the need for high-quality, consistent marking cannot be overstated."

About seven primary schools in Canterbury were due to meet to plan requests for reviews of marking this week after scores across the city seemed to plummet.

The short writing task is marked out of four for sentence structure, punctuation and text organisation, and out of eight for composition and effect. Children were also asked to complete a longer writing task about trying out a training shoe.

Jo Ward, literacy and assessment co-ordinator at Spring Bank Primary in Leeds, has decided to send back 16 reading and 19 writing papers for re- marking. She thinks only five out of the 30 children in her Year 6 will not have their levels changed this year.

"We're used to sending back four or five papers - this time it was just something else," she said. "The reading papers were six or seven marks out. The writing was completely undermarked. It is the worst I have seen in 15 years."

Mrs Ward was told she could not ask for a group review - when a whole batch of papers is sent back - because they are only available for groups of more than 30 pupils. This meant she had to go through each paper individually.

She said: "It has taken almost two weeks, day and night. The head and Year 6 teacher have had to cover my class while I sit at my desk for five hours a day sorting it all out. I am seeing papers in my dreams."

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority reported last week that 99.9 per cent of papers, sat by almost 600,000 pupils, had been returned to schools on time.

But the NUT pointed out that historically one in five grades had been inaccurate. Ofqual has already said it will look into the quality of marking and reporting back later this year.

A QCA spokesperson said: "We are confident that the quality assurance measures put in place this year to ensure good-quality marking are effective. An integral part of that quality assurance process is the opportunity that schools have to ask for results to be reviewed."

Worth the same?

Child A

The noise subsides as students settle down. What had been a cacophony louder than a rock festival is now a murmur quieter than a cricket. Stragglers rush past in dribs and drabs, worrying about how angry their teachers will be.

(Extract from a 140-word answer)

Child B

I was in the market and all people were rushing around. It smell like a pig! Everone was droping the food in the basket. The food was nice but the people wasn't! I was woking round the market to buy a chocolate.

(Extract from a 70-word answer).

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