Inspectors warned to take Sats boycott into account

15th January 2016 at 00:00
Heads fear schools could be penalised in performance tables because of a lack of test results from 2010

Ofsted has told its inspectors to be “careful” when inspecting secondary schools in areas hit by the 2010 boycott of key stage 2 Sats, after headteachers warned that data problems caused by the protest risked making them “look terrible”.

The watchdog has written to inspectors to warn them of the ramifications of the boycott, which mean it is harder to track how much progress pupils have made between entering in Year 7 and taking GCSEs in 2015.

Measures to track pupils’ progress between 11 and 16 would normally be based on a comparison of their Sats and GCSE results, but for tens of thousands of pupils who did not take Sats, they will be based on teacher assessments from Year 6.

Experts have warned that these assessments provide “cruder” data than test results and heads have said that they “inflate” the attainment of 11-year-olds. The Association of School and College Leaders says that secondary schools may appear to have let pupils down if their GCSE results are not in line with the assessments.

“Of pupils who completed key stage 4 in 2015, 26 per cent had their key stage 2 prior attainment based on teacher assessment,” Ofsted says in its letter. “This was higher than usual because it included pupils from schools that boycotted the key stage 2 tests in 2010. Inspectors should interpret progress measures carefully where teacher assessment has been used for prior attainment.”

Progress measures include “value added” and the new “Progress 8” in some schools. Headteachers have expressed concern that the lack of Sats data makes their schools’ performance look worse (see box, below). “This data makes us look terrible,” one headteacher, who asked not to be named, told TES.

Bill Marshall, head of Humphry Davy School in Cornwall, said: “Our GCSE results this year were the highest ever, but because of the data, our value added looks average.”

Professor David Jesson, an economist at the University of York, has been working with schools that are at risk of being affected by the problem. “It’s pretty clear from my work that there’s a big issue for schools where lots of pupils were in the boycott,” he said.

‘Unfair for parents’

Professor Jesson said that the publication of school performance tables next week could cause problems for schools because the data methods being used by the Department for Education would effectively round up the scores of pupils given a level 5 by their teachers in Year 6. “Parents make choices about secondary schools using the league tables,” he said. “If you don’t give people the right information, their choices might be inappropriate for their children.”

A DfE spokesman said that performance tables would make it clear where more than 50 per cent of the KS2 results were based on teacher assessments.

Professor Jesson estimated that in 600 schools, more than half of pupils were affected by the boycott. He said it would be better to report separately on the progress of pupils who had not taken Sats, so it was clear that their scores were not based on the same data.

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‘We’ll look terrible,’ says head

One secondary headteacher claims that the progress data, based on teacher assessment in primary, makes his school “look terrible”.

The head, who preferred to remain anonymous, adds: “I think the primary teachers were being optimistic…they have an inflated view of [pupils’] ability.

“I’m concerned that Ofsted will say, ‘This is a really bright year group, so why are they underperforming?’ Our inspection will stand or fall on the conversation we that have with Ofsted inspectors about that data.”

The headteacher tells TES that he welcomes the Ofsted letter, but adds: “I’m still anxious about the inspection. It all comes down to the individual inspector that comes in, and whether that person believes you.”

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