Schools can stagger SAT times without notifying government, says new guidance

Schools will no longer have to inform the Standards and Testing Agency if they are going to administer tests to pupils in several sittings, despite sector concerns around cheating.

Updated guidance on the assessment and reporting arrangements for key stage 2 has “tidied up” some of the rules around SATs, according to a sector expert.

Schools usually apply for the staggered start times if they have limited space for the tests or not enough staff to administer them, said Michael Tidd, headteacher at Medmerry primary school in Sussex.

But primary schools appear to now be “trusted” to administer different start times themselves, he said.

Concerns that primary schools might cheat is likely to be behind the old rule, but the Department for Education will have found they’re “not learning much” from the start-time notifications from primaries, added Tidd.

It comes as one academy trust boss has called for primary schools to be scrutinised by secondary school colleagues during SATs amid a rise in maladministration investigations.

Under the new changes, headteachers will also not have to tell the STA if a pupil is sitting their tests at a different place to the school, for example at a pupil referral unit.

Instead, the headteacher is “responsible for ensuring that the security and confidentiality of the tests is maintained and the tests are administered according to the test administration guidance.”

However other changes to the assessment and reporting arrangements require more information from schools.

Academies will need to notify the government for the first time if they want a local authority that is not their own to moderate their tests.

Until now, academies have been able to use a different local authority to moderate SATs tests if they don’t like their own without informing the government.

But instead they must tell the Standards and Testing Agency of the decision to switch LAs by December 14 this year, and the STA will then tell local authorities which academies they should be using in their moderation plans.

Pupil referral units and special educational needs schools, as well as hospital schools and secure units, must also now order their tests on the National Curriculum Assessment (NCA) tools website if they’re expecting any of their pupils to sit the tests.

Previously, schools had to confirm they did not need the test materials, rather than specifically apply to say they did. Test orders must be made by November 23.

Other updates include changes primary schools were already familiar with, such as the removal of teacher assessments from reading and maths, as a way to reduce the “burden” on schools.

Teachers were also already aware of the new pre-key stage 2 standards for pupils working below the standard for national curriculum tests, such as those with special educational needs. The standards use ‘pupil can’ statements to gauge progress in each subject.

Science frameworks have also been tweaked to be “clearer” so teachers know exactly how to assess their pupils against them.