The wait-and-see game over key stage 2 Sats results

Everyone is now shooting in the dark when it comes to progress measures in 2020, says headteacher Michael Tidd

Sats: Primary schools don't know what will happen in terms of progress measures in 2020, says headteacher Michael Tidd

The timing of the tables-checking exercise for schools really is quite remarkable. While you might have thought that all of the key stage 2 results were out in July, it’s only this week that schools have found out what their progress measures look like this year. 

Or, at least, those schools where the headteacher has been able to get on to the website have found out. If you’re a new headteacher this year, then the chances are you had plenty of things on your mind, and wouldn’t have thought to look out for the letter that tells you, well, nothing.

New heads have to make sure that they’ve got a login for the new website, but they can only do that by ensuring that their name is listed against their school on another government website – and for that you need – guess what – another login.

If you can overcome that hurdle, though – or you’re already the headteacher and you’ve managed to recall your password from a year ago – then you can now look at your school’s results in more detail and find out what the progress scores look like. The good news is that the national dip in attainment for reading means that your reading progress scores may look better than you first thought.

Pupils making good progress?

The bad news is, after just three years of knowing roughly where we stand with measuring progress, we once again find ourselves shooting in the dark when it comes to progress measures in 2020. It’s not clear whether the Department for Education has worked out what it will do yet, or whether this decision will be news to all of us this time next year.

This is, of course, just the latest consequence of throwing out levels without ever really thinking about what would replace them. For the past few years we’ve had a progress measure that compares pupils with others who had similar outcomes at key stage 1. It had some anomalies, but by and large it gave an indication of predicted outcomes that results could be compared against.

The new key stage 1 measures aren’t anywhere near as subtle as the old ones. Whatever your thoughts about sublevels, it did at least mean that the big band of pupils in the middle were broken up into small groups. Between a quarter and a third of pupils would score at each sublevel, and so there were quite a few smaller groups to compare to. With the new measures, over half of pupils achieved the expected standard in each subject. Presumably the department won’t just lump all those pupils in together.

Sats results uncertainty

The best schools can do now is wait and see. Perhaps at some point the DfE will enlighten us about how it intends to square this circle. In the meantime, we can make some guesses.

In 2016, three-quarters of Year 2 pupils reached the expected standard in reading. If all of them go on to reach the expected standard in Year 6, then we’ll see a pass rate very similar to this year. It seems that expected standard to expected standard is a pretty safe bet to aim for.

In maths, the picture is a little fuzzier. Similar proportions reached the expected standard in Year 2, but unless we think standards will fall in Year 6 next year, then we should probably expect some of our near misses who only reached the level of working towards the expected standard in Year 2 to reach the expected standard in May. 

As for writing, that’s anybody’s guess: the results were so erratic in 2016 in both primary and secondary that frankly you’d be better off picking some lottery numbers and hoping you don’t have to deal with the fallout in 2020. 

Michael Tidd is headteacher at East Preston Junior School, in West Sussex. He tweets as @MichaelT1979

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