Key stage 2 SATs results: Nicky Morgan’s ‘good start’ claim rubbished as teachers vent frustrations online

The government’s claim that today’s key stage 2 results were a “good start” to its new “rigorous” tests has been questioned, with teachers also taking to social media to vent their concerns.

The Department for Education (DfE) published a short summary of results from this year’s tests, which revealed that just 53 per cent of pupils met the expected standard in reading, writing and maths.

While not directly comparable to last year, as children are being tested under a new curriculum and framework, it is a dramatic difference in the 80 per cent who achieved a level 4 in 2015.

Nicky Morgan, education secretary, said: “This is the first year we have assessed pupils under the new more rigorous system and it is no surprise that this year’s results look different to previous years, but despite that the majority of pupils have achieved above and beyond the new expected standard.”

She said today’s results were a “good start”.

But Anne Watson, emeritus professor of mathematics education at the University of Oxford, questioned Morgan’s claims. She said: “The aim to raise standards has resulted in a new way to measure performance so that no comparative judgements can be made.

This means we do not know from the data alone whether the government has done a good job or a bad job and whether the test designers and score-scalers have done a good job or a bad job.”

She added that all we know is more children might now be “labelled as ‘failures’ in these tests”.

As yet, the new shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has not commented on today’s results.

But her predecessor Lucy Powell (pictured right), who held the position until nine days ago, in response to journalist Robert Peston’s comment questioning if the government should be Lucy-Powell-fringe-cutout“celebrating a 53 per cent pass rate” tweeted that the government’s position was a “disgrace”.

In a tweeted statement, Powell said it was a “total shambles” and said the results could not be “dressed up”. She pointed to “chaos and confusion” in this year’s assessment.

She said: “There’s no dressing these results up – there has been a big drop in results and standards have fallen due to the chaos and confusion in assessment caused by Tory ministers past and present.

“Despite their best efforts children taking SATs this year have been guinea pigs. It is no wonder that there is no confidence left among parents, teachers and school leaders in this year’s primary assessments.”

Speaking to Schools Week, Andy Fawkes, headteacher at Linchfield Community primary school in Lincolnshire, said he thought there would be “thousands of headteachers” who were “up at the crack of dawn looking at their results in disbelief” [schools were able to view their results from midnight].

He said: “We had to wait until 11am until we knew what the national picture was. So many people must have just been wondering what on earth was happening with their results.

“These results mean 47 per cent of children in this country are, according to the government, not ready for secondary school. How do you tell children and their parents that? That surely is not right.

“The system is a debacle.”

The system is a debacle

Teachers have also said that it is concerning that teacher-assessed writing, traditionally the lowest result, has come out “top” (at 74 per cent).

The KS2 tests have been marred with confusion and chaos over the last few months.

Pupils went on “strike” in May, during SATs week. Schools minister Nick Gibb also bowed to pressure and moved the date for teaching assessment back, after it was initially brought forward to May.

And, a “rogue marker” was blamed for an attempted leak of one of the test papers. The spelling, punctuation and grammar test was uploaded onto a password protected site, before being passed to a journalist.

The National Union of Teachers, which is on strike today, at its national conference also called on the DfE to cancel primary testing, citing concerns about the tests’ age-appropriateness and difficulty.

Today, the union’s acting general secretary tweeted:



Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said it is “regrettable” today’s results were “marred by the Government’s mishandling of curriculum and assessment reforms which has created deep anxiety, confusion and uncertainty for pupils and schools”.

She added: “Despite the efforts of teachers and pupils, the value of this year’s test results will be poured over and questioned and schools face the prospect of being held to account unfairly on the basis of this year’s results data.”

The union has reiterated a call for the government to conduct an “open review” of the issues surrounding this year’s tests and “ensure that we have a system of assessment that is fit for purpose and commands the confidence of teachers and the public”.

The government also this morning published the “scaled scores” for this year’s tests, which show how many marks pupils needed in each test to meet the expected standard.

Schools Week has also published the national results in full, broken down by each test.

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  1. wizzobravo

    I think we have come to the point where the government has used up all its credit, lives and luck with the fragmented and divisive education system that they have engineered. How does this bucket of crap help anyone? Local authority controlled schools or academies, we are all subject to the whims of ideologues who have a faulty understanding of young children, learning, testing and statistics.

    The whole of primary assessment needs to be boycotted until there is a consensus on a way forward from here. No joking, the system’s broken and it was crap to start with. There is no way in hell that heads, unions, academy chains, local authorities or teachers should be engaging with this rot. Come September, bypass this nonsense and get on with an alternative provision.

    Teachers in classrooms should bin their bureaucratic accountability systems and return to the age old explanation of how a child is doing by saying to any interested visitor, “Look in their book.” How do you know a child is reading at age related expectations? The child can read a book of a certain reading age and answer meaningful questions on it through discussion. No paperwork, no tick-boxes and a short end of year report!

    There also needs to be a review of the involvement in textbook publishers with setting both curricula and tests. This pernicious spread of the profit motive is corrupting our education system by introducing error where no error should be, whether at primary level or GCSE. Just look at the Royal Society of Chemistry’s concerns over the current GCSE syllabus produced by the exam boards. Having a child regurgitate an exact response to a question that precludes the ability of a marker to interpret the answer, being aware of the ambiguities that children are subject to, is just plain wrong.

    Why take something so joyous as primary education and try to turn it into grey misery? Happy schools do not emerge from stressed staff. Are these Pearson-derived exam factories what we want our very young children to go to?

  2. Sarah Brown

    As a Primary School SENCo it has upset me this year to see children who have worked exceedingly hard throughout their primary education hardly able to access the KS2SATS. These children have made fantastic progress from their starting point on entry to school. The current SATS discriminate against these children in particular as the assessments do not give an opportunity to show what they are able to do as the entry level assessment is set too high.If the pass rate is 53% where does that leave the very children we are working hard to help them achieve as well as possible.

    This Government seems intent on making as many young children as possible feel like failures from as young an age as possible. As every good teacher knows confidence and good self esteem are key to developing happy and emotional healthy individuals but then how many good teachers are involved in writing these tests?

  3. Nick Morgan thinks 53% reaching an arbitrary ‘expected standard’ is a ‘good start’. Really? 47% of 11 year-olds have been officially labelled as failing and she’s pleased. 47% of 11 year-olds are deemed not ‘secondary ready’ and she’s satisfied.
    It’s time to boycott these tests. They have no educational value and serve only as a lazy way to judge schools and to give ministers like Morgan something to crow about.

  4. Why are the teacher unions including headteacher unions not coming together to challenge this miserable state of affairs? The profession seems to have turned into an army of worker ants. Everyone is working constantly, mindlessly, and compliantly. Those who have had enough of this dogma only have the option of leaving the profession if they can stomach it no longer.
    If teachers are not going to initiate change through their professional associations, then who else will? When there is any form of protest it comes as a half baked strike by the NUT, devoid of any focus. Where are our leaders? Where are our principles about what education should be about? Why are we letting down the young people in our care? We seem to have professional paralysis.