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National Curriculum assessment in the UK

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National Curriculum assessments are a series of course assessments, colloquially known as Sats[1] or SATs,[2] used to assess the attainment of children attending maintained schools in England. They comprise a mixture of teacher-led and test-based assessment depending on the age of the pupils.

The assessments are completed at the end of each Key Stage and record attainment in terms of National Curriculum attainment levels, numbered between 1 and 8. The expectations for each stage are set out as follows:

Key Stage School Year Approximate
Pupil Age
Expected
Level[3]
Key Stage 1 Year 2 7 Level 2
Key Stage 2 Year 6 11 Level 4
Key Stage 3 Year 9 14 Level 5/6


TerminologyEdit

The terminology used for the assessments varies both in type and context. Where assessments are made in-school by class teachers, these are referred to as Teacher Assessments. These assessments make up part of the final assessment at the end of all Key Stages.[4]

Where assessment is completed through testing, these assessments are known as National Curriculum Tests.[5]

Colloquially the assessments - particularly in the test form - are referred to as SATs. This terminology is rooted in the original intention to introduce Standard Assessment Tasks when the assessments were first introduced.[6] The term is variously believed to stand for Statutory Assessment Tests[7], Standard Attainment Tests[8] and Standard Assessment Tests.[2]

DataEdit

In England, data collected from the assessments at all three key stages are published nationally in performance tables produced by the Department for Children, Schools and Families[9] alongside data for secondary schools relating to performance at Key Stage 4.

Key Stage 1Edit

During Year 2, teacher assessment is carried out in the core subjects of English, Mathematics and Science. In English, teachers are required to record a level in the three strands or Reading, Writing, and Speaking & Listening.[4] To assist teachers in arriving at an assessed level, tests and tasks can be completed in reading, writing and mathematics. These are normally taken during May.[7]

Key Stage 2Edit

During May in the final year of Key Stage 2, children undertake National Curriculum Tests in the three core subjects of English, Mathematics and Science. These provide records of attainment in the subjects, including separate levels for reading and writing as part of the overall English grade. In addition, teachers are required to provide teacher assessments in the same subjects.[4]

Key Stage 3Edit

Until 2008, in May during the final year of Key Stage 3, all students were required to undertake National Curriculum Tests in the three core subjects of English, Mathematics and Science. These provided records of attainment in the subjects, including separate levels for reading and writing as part of the overall English grade. The English assessments also included the study of a Shakespeare play.[4]

Previous plans to introduce a test for Information and Communication Technology were dropped in 2007 in favour of a bank of formative assessment materials.[10]

Following a series of issues regarding the marking of National Curriculum Tests in 2008, the national tests were abolished for Key Stage 3.[11] Teacher assessments are still required in all the subjects of the National Curriculum and in Religious Education.[4]

Optional TestsEdit

In addition to the statutory assessments at the end of each key stage, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority produces suites of tests for the assessment of English and Mathematics in Years 3, 4 and 5 during Key Stage 2,[12] and in Years 7 and 8 during Key Stage 3.[12] These tests are not statutory, hence their titling as Optional Tests.

Criticisms Edit

Like many tests of this nature, the assessments have been subject to a variety of criticism. Two of the main points of concern are that they place children under constant stress for their whole academic lives, and that the principal purpose of national curriculum testing is for school league tables.[13]

In its 2008 report into National Testing, the House of Commons, the Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families registered its concern with the current testing arrangements in state schools. It raised concerns that the "professional abilities of teachers" were under-used and that the high-stakes nature of the tests led to "phenomena such as teaching to the test, narrowing the curriculum and focussing disproportionate resources on borderline pupils." They further recommended that the multiple uses of National Curriculum assessment - for local accountability, national monitoring, and individual progress measurement - be separated into different forms of assessment.[14]

ReferencesEdit

  1. Sats for 14-year-olds abolished: Teachers and parents praise decision
  2. 2.0 2.1 Headteacher welcomes end of SATs
  3. (2008). Secondary Schools 2006 (KS3). National Curriculum Online. Qualifications & Curriculum Authority. URL accessed on 2008-06-02.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 (2008). National Curriculum teacher assessments and key stage tests. DirectGov website. H M Government. URL accessed on 2008-02-18.
  5. (2008). Tests and tasks: National Curriculum Tests. QCA website. Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. URL accessed on 2008-02-18.
  6. Kirkup, C; Sizmur, J., Sturman, L., Lewis, K. (2005). Schools’ Use of Data in Teaching and Learning (PDF), 27, London: Department for Education and Skills / NFER.
  7. 7.0 7.1 (2008). SAT Exams. WSCC website. West Sussex County Council. URL accessed on 2008-02-18.
  8. (2008). The Standards Site: Online Help. DCSF website. Department for Children, Schools and Families. URL accessed on 2008-02-18.
  9. (2008). School and college achievement and attainment tables. DCSF website. Department for Children, Schools and Families. URL accessed on 2008-02-18.
  10. (2008). Key Stage 3 ICT assessment tasks: About the Tasks: Background. NAA website. National Assessment Agency. URL accessed on 2008-09-06.
  11. (2008). Tests scrapped for 14-year-olds. BBC website. British Broadcasting Corporation. URL accessed on 2008-10-14.
  12. 12.0 12.1 (2008). Years 3, 4 and 5 optional tests. QCA website. Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. URL accessed on 2008-02-18.
  13. (2008). Fresh criticism for Sats. SFS Group website. SFS Group. URL accessed on 2008-05-31.
  14. (2008). Conclusions and Recommendations. Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families Third Report. UK Parliament. URL accessed on 2008-05-31.

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