TES Forums - 'Scores show nothing that proves anything'

7th August 2009 at 01:00


The fall in standards indicated by the press is just a stagnated maths score and a 1 per cent fall in the English score. This is not even a statistical hiccough as the changes are well inside standard deviation, and wouldn't make a statistician blink. But when did newsmen, politicians, inspectors and educational advisers ever understand statistics?


Since the numbers achieving level 4 or better have risen since 1997, one could as easily write the headline 'Tories were rubbish at getting enough kids to achieve L4 or better'. However, most of us understand that: a) Sats show nothing that proves anything; and b) when Sats began, the concept was that level 4 was meant to identify the average grade.


In 1997, to reach a level 4 for English writing the mark range was 31-38. In 2008, the mark range to achieve a level 4 was 25-36. It is lower, which might well have been done to throw more students into a level 4 or higher and make it appear there has been improvement. The fact that there is a dip this year, even when the boundary marks are much lower than they used to be, should be a great cause for concern.


So after years of things improving, listening to the moaners complaining about things being made easy, a drop in the statistics suddenly means the whole system's failing! How about a bit of perspective?


Failing to get a level 4 in English does not mean that those children leave primary education unable to read and write.


Regrettably, for most of the children we take in Year 7 who get a level 3 or below it does mean precisely that. They cannot read and write to a standard that (I suspect) anyone on here would call truly literate. Or are the children we get in Year 7 at my school different in some way from those in the rest of the country? Don't be fooled by the 'standards' for achieving level 3.


Of course the levels are inflated. Year 6 is now spent doing nothing but revise for Sats. Not through choice - we are forced into this position. My sympathies to Year 7 teachers, but until this love affair with data is binned and league tables dropped, the situation will only get worse.

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