Small schools no advantage for primary test scores

Primary pupils who took this year’s key stage 2 SATs tests in small class sizes performed the same as their peers in larger cohorts, according to new government data.

The Department for Education this morning released provisional results of the tests in reading, writing and maths, broken down at local authority and regional level.

Within the data, a breakdown of school cohort size revealed that pupils scored nearly the exact same average scaled score regardless of cohort size – although there was a slight benefit of smaller cohorts in reading.

Average scaled scores for primary pupils

Under the new scaled score system, pupils had to achieve 100 or above in all three subjects to reach the government’s expected standard.

On average, pupils achieved 103 in reading, 104 in writing, and 103 in maths.

A further breakdown of class sizes revealed that small year 6 classes of one to 15 pupils achieved an average scaled score of 104 in reading, and 103 in writing and maths.

Cohorts of more than 91 pupils in large schools achieved 103 in reading, 104 in writing and 103 in maths – indicating there was no significant benefit to learning in a smaller class.

Neil Short, an education consultant and chair of the National Association for Small Schools (NASS), said that today’s statistics “proves that if you have good teachers working hard then it doesn’t matter what the cohort size is, you will achieve good results. It is all about the context of the individual school.”

Click the image to read the table




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  1. An interesting finding, although perhaps worth being pedantic and noting that class size and cohort size aren’t necessarily the same thing. You could, for example, divide a cohort of sixty into four classes of fifteen or two classes of 30. Similarly, a small year 6 isn’t the same as a small school – the group could be disproportionately small or large.