Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Letters I received today telling me about DfE's mess-up with KS1 Spelling tests

This was a letter I received this afternoon:

"Our school was selected, as were many others, to administer the tests early to allow the STA/DFE to 'set the benchmark' for age-related expectations at the end of KS1. This early administration is currently happening in a handful of schools all around the country in all three of the tested areas. (1 area per school)

Upon receiving the phone call from the STA - we were given no option to decline taking the tests early - we put a plan into action so that the children would not be put under any undue stress but would still be given the best possible chance of achieving, what the government deems is, age-related for the end of KS1. So, on Thursday we started sitting tests with 61 6/7 year olds.

Now you can imagine my frustration when today I actually found that the STA/DFE themselves have published the spelling test online for anyone to see. It looks to me as though a major mistake has been made by either publishing the paper online or sending us the wrong one. Our teaching staff have tried to make what is essential a dry and inaccurate curriculum as fun, engaging and creative as they can and our children have worked extremely hard this year. Yet, the test, which they are essentially going to be judged upon, has been shared with the entire world."

This was followed up by:

"I suppose it matters because the very nature of a test is that it is meant to be unseen, so that teaching to the test can be avoided.

Our children have already sat this test now, the way I see it the DFE/STA have a limited amount of options:

1. They will tell us, and other early admin schools, that our results are null and void resulting in our children re-taking a different test. This will have an impact on their wellbeing. They've already sat it once! Also, there are financial implications. Re-printing a test paper for every year 2 child in the country is costly not only in terms of resources but also staffing costs.

2. Stop all schools taking the test and advise them to use teacher assessment instead. This would be brilliant by why insist on these poor children taking it in the first place. If teacher assessment out does the test, don't bother wasting money printing it! Scrap all the tests then!

3. Other schools could now have an unfair advantage as they have already seen the test. This would distort all data and could make it seem as though the governments new curriculum is really working when it really is not.

4. If they discount our results/make our children re-sit it/scrap the tests our school has wasted valuable learning time administering these papers. This has a financial impact on us and our children.

We are held to account for the storing of these test papers so that no information can be 'leaked' and no other schools are given an 'advantage' yet the paper has been published online. Our school could have maladministration proceedings against them if we had shared it. So imposing these rules on schools implies that the government do not want other schools to see these test early yet have published it online."

This was followed up by:

"We only know that it is the test as we have already seen this year's. This does mean that other schools won't know that it is this year's test but could have been using it to assess children already.

I have been contacted by the DFE, who have told me that it is definitely this year's test that they have made a mistake in publishing it."