Government publishes details of pre-key stage standards for SEND pupils

The government has confirmed how it will track the progress of special educational needs pupils working “below test standard” in primary schools next year – but warned that teachers should not use the standards to grade pupils.

The pre-key stage 1 and 2 standards, which are mainly for pupils with special educational needs not working at the level of the national curriculum, have been published today by the Standards and Testing Agency, ahead of being rolled out in 2018-19.

They were first announced in September after the government accepted most of the recommendations of the Rochford Review, led by executive headteacher Diane Rochford, which investigated the assessment of pupils who cannot access the national curriculum.

The review recommended the scrapping of ‘P’ levels, which were previously used,  since they reflected the old national curriculum levels system no longer used in mainstream education.

Now, pre-key stage standards have been created to test subject-specific ability. The P-scale will continue for those pupils working below pre-key stage standards.

For year 6 pupils and year 2 pupils, a school may administer the key stage 2 and key stage 1 test but can still “assess the pupil against the pre-key stage standards” if they feel it is “more appropriate”, the STA document explains.

For each test in reading, writing and maths, a teacher will answer a series of “pupil can” statements to demonstrate the pupil’s capabilities. For instance, the pre-key stage 1 reading assessment asks whether pupils can speak or communicate the letters of the alphabet, blend them into words, and answer questions about a book.

Barney Angliss

When the pupil is in year 6, more “pupil can” statements about reading are added, including being able to read some common words and sounds fluently.

Similarly in the maths pre-key stage 1 standard, teachers must state whether pupils can count forwards and backwards from 0 to 20, read and write the numbers 0 to 9 and more. Again, more statements are added for the pre-key stage 2 standard in year 6.

By year 6, for the writing standard, pupils will be expected to show they can use capital letters and full stops correctly in some sentences, and write a sentence without the help of a teacher, among other expectations.

Data on the pre-key stage standards will be used by the government to track pupils’ progress, but the guidance urges teachers to “assess individual pieces of pupils’ work in line with their school’s own assessment policy and not against these standards.”

“At the end of year 6, teachers should make a judgement against the standards based on their own assessment of pupils’ work in the classroom.” It adds that the standards should not be used for formative assessment.

However, teachers are expected to be able to produce evidence to support any of the “pupil can” claims they make about a child.

“Interim” pre-key stage standards were been piloted in some schools this year before they will only become statutory for all schools next year.

Barney Angliss, SEND consultant, said the new documents were “more precise” about the pre-key stage standards and “so more useful. Now teachers can plan and adapt their practice.”

He praised the standards, saying they “allow schools to show a continuum of progress and confidence among pupils with additional needs so we don’t lose sight of these children.”