Schools

Schools white paper: New key stage 3 benchmarking tests

The digital tests will provide an 'understanding of national performance'

The digital tests will provide an 'understanding of national performance'

28 Mar 2022, 10:18

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The government will introduce a new series of literacy and numeracy digital tests for some year 9 pupils to “estimate performance at national level”.

The Department for Education has today released its ‘Opportunity for all ‘white paper setting out its plans for levelling up schools.

As part of its ambition, the government is planning to lift the attainment of all secondary pupils and increase the national GCSE average grade in English language and maths to 5 by 2030.

The national average in 2019 was 4.5.

In order to track progress and provide a “stronger understanding of national performance”, the DfE will introduce a new test of literacy and numeracy at key stage 3.

The test will be taken “by a sample of children in year 9, to estimate performance at national level”. It will “consist of a short series of digital activities undertaken by a small number of children in school”.

Minister ruled out return of KS3 SATs

In January, schools minster Robin Walker ruled out reinstating SATs at key stage 3 but said internal tests could be used to improve literacy.

It came after The Guardian reported last year that the government was considering a return of the test for 14-year-olds which had been scrapped in 2018.

The new tests sound more like the national reference tests, taken by year 11s and used to benchmark GCSE grades.

Today’s white paper states that increasing the GCSE average grade in both English language and maths by 0.5 is estimated to be worth £34 billion for the wider economy, for a single cohort in 2030.

The ambition was established to tackle the problem of “too many children” leaving education without key knowledge and skills.

At key stage 2, the government wants to ensure that 90 per cent of children leave primary school having achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths by 2030.

This would be up from 65 per cent in 2019.

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  1. It makes no sense to have an ambition to increase the proportion of students achieving a certain grade when we are dealing with a system that works by allocating grades based on national performance proportions. It essentially means giving more pupils the grades than we have before – the failing of the A-G system.
    Currently the proportion of students getting 4+ and 7+ is fixed to be around 2/3 and 1/3. To change this changes the grading system and devalues its rigour.