Dr Allan Sigston, Director of Education Services for EdisonLearning, produced this analysis of outcomes for the 2015-16 academic year. Some schools will already have had sight of it, but others may not have. This paper refers to data on progress as well as attainment from 85 schools, although not all the schools returned all the requested data.
Overall, the schools come out a little under the national average for attainment and progress; expectations could easily have been set much lower given the starting points and contexts of many of the schools. Only around a third of schools were within 10% of their April forecast percentage for meeting age-related expectations.
Reading was the lowest attainment area, as it was nationally, and the recommendations and initiatives about focusing further on fluency of reading still stand. Writing was close to the national picture and Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling was not far adrift.
However, partner schools were most discrepant in attainment and progress in Maths. In particular it appears that learners in the third quartile were less likely to meet age related expectations. We would speculate that schools that have successfully implemented Fast Maths would find that their learners were relatively competent in the calculations section. If this is the case then the issue would seem to revolve around some of the ‘easier’ reasoning questions on which, in the round, nationally learners coped with better. We would urge all schools to do an item analysis to identify clearly the crucial set of concepts and questions which could be addressed better through pedagogy as part of Year 6 teaching as well as sharing these with teachers of younger age groups to enrich a picture of minimum expectations of learners in Year 6. The pressure of tests can easily lead to more direct and didactic teaching, but the need is to improve reasoning, pointing to the use of more Conceptual Learning strategies (see example methods in the Appendix of the Conceptual Learning Strategy handbook, resulting from work by David Herbert and partner schools in Havering).
The proposals that follow are designed to address some of the issues identified:
- In the Achievement Statements for Reading, for each year group, there is a Foundational statement related to speed of reading. Research has shown that speed is necessary (but not sufficient) for comprehension, and absolutely necessary to finding specific information within a text swiftly. This is an area that is amenable to ‘Fast Learning’. We have formulated a new methodology called ‘Fluent Reading’ that schools may wish to consider to directly address this issue.
- Now the structure and nature of SATs is clearer the ways to prepare learners for the tests will be clearer too. A useful discussion for subject leaders to have with Achievement Advisers would be around controlled assessments designed to ensure that skills and knowledge assessed within lessons can be demonstrated under test-like conditions, as well as ensuring learners are at ease with the strictures of the tests themselves. We can never allow the tail of tests to wag the dog of the curriculum, but it is vital that learners are able to demonstrate and apply what they know under different conditions, including tests.
- Deploying some of the school’s Achievement Adviser time to review item analyses (and discuss its implications for conceptual learning strategies- some examples of useful methods are shown in the Appendix. For a majority of partner schools this would seem to be especially fruitful for maths.