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SATs writing scores an unreliable measure of school success

08/09/2016 Joanna

A study conducted by Rebecca Allen, director of Education Datalab, shows that moderation of SATs writing assessments has deteriorated to a point where the results shouldn't be used to judge school success, TES reports.

Her analysis of data from the Department for Education (DfE) shows that many schools have particularly high or low writing scores relative to their reading results, which suggests that teachers' assessments of writing are increasingly inconsistent.

In a blog post, Dr Allen wrote: "Our suspicion is that consistency in moderation across local authorities is much worse in 2016 than it was in 2015. Given these concerns about the writing moderation this year, perhaps it would be safer to judge overall performance on maths and reading only."

This analysis backs up concerns from unions earlier in 2016 that moderation of written analysis is inconsistent, with many head teachers reporting variations in what was expected of them by local authorities.

However, despite this assessment and concerns being raised, a DfE Standards and Testing Agency spokesperson said: "We externally moderate a sample of local authorities to judge their moderation model and ensure it is consistent. No concerns were identified with this year's assessments. Departmental analysis of this year’s results suggests similar levels of variability overall at school level to last year."

They went on to say that as long as schools are following the guidance the DfE has provided, assessments should remain consistent. The body's Standards and Testing Agency will continue to carry out its own moderation of 25 per cent of local authorities to ensure the guidance is being followed. 

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