The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) published an evaluation of the Standards and Testing Agency’s (STA) approach to the tests on 5 October, which acknowledged concerns raised by teachers relating to the accessibility of the 2016 reading test.
The maths papers also came under scrutiny in the report, which found the design of the maths test may “fail to do justice” to the aims of the curriculum.
“The review suggests that the test seemed to be more challenging than the sample materials provided and a significant minority of pupils did not finish the test,” the government website states.
Dr Michelle Meadows, deputy chief regulator at Ofqual, said: “We have identified specific questions that we will continue to discuss with the STA, to help them to enhance the validity of the reading and maths tests over time.”
Ofqual aims to promote standards and confidence in early years and national curriculum assessments. 2016 was the first year pupils were assessed under the new “more rigorous” system.
Discussing the issues with the maths paper, the report states: “Prominent mathematics associations have argued that the design of the mathematics test may fail to do justice to the aims of the mathematics curriculum, which are framed in terms of fluency, mathematical reasoning, and problem solving.”
An overview of the Ofqual report posted on the government website states: ”[The report] finds that STA’s approach is robust and compares favourably to approaches taken in similar tests internationally, while acknowledging that there are aspects of maths and reading that cannot straightforwardly be tested.”
The findings confirm what parents and teachers expressed about the 2016 SATs tests after they were taken. Teachers warned the tests were “harder than expected” when children received their results in July 2016.
In a survey of 2,600 National Union for Head Teachers (NAHT) members, 98% said the English spelling, punctuation and grammar test for 11-year-olds was “difficult”. A third said the maths paper 2 for Year 6 pupils was “much more difficult than expected” and 24% said the same about the maths paper 3.
“Today’s results cannot and must not be compared to data from previous years,” Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said at the time.
“If they are, they will give a misleading picture of school performance.”