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Ofqual review suggests new SATs may be too challenging

10/10/2017 Joanna

The new approach to national curriculum testing at key stage 2 introduced in 2016 may have adopted an excessive level of difficulty, a new Ofqual review has suggested.

The exams regulator has carried out an evaluation of the Standards and Testing Agency's (STA's) approach to developing key stage 2 reading and maths tests, alongside a review of evidence relating to the accessibility of the 2016 reading SAT, which affirmed concerns raised by teachers at the time that the test may have been too hard.

After examining a wide body of evidence and data relating to the accessibility of the 2016 reading test - which was taken by more than 550,000 ten and 11-year-olds - it was determined that standards had been set appropriately, but that the test itself may have been more challenging than the sample materials provided.

As such, around one-quarter of pupils did not complete the test, which asked them to read three passages of text and answer 33 questions in one hour. Subsequently, the published results revealed that only two-thirds of pupils reached the expected standard.

Although the 2017 reading test did not raise similar accessibility concerns, Ofqual stated that its review highlights areas that could benefit from further consideration by STA as it continues to refine this new approach to primary national curriculum testing.

Meanwhile, the regulator's evaluation of the current methods of ensuring effective coverage of the knowledge, skills and understanding set out in the English reading and maths curriculum found that STA's approach is robust, comparing favourably to those taken in similar tests internationally.

Dr Michelle Meadows, Ofqual's deputy chief regulator, said: "We are reassured that STA's approach to sampling from the national curriculum is robust. 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, for all pupils."

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