Showing posts with label ks2 sats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ks2 sats. Show all posts

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

From The @TES Blog: Five Songs To Get Your After-SATs Party Started


Another bit of fun from me over on the TES site: https://www.tes.com/news/five-songs-get-your-after-sats-party-started

Monday, 13 May 2019

From The @TES Blog: Eyes Down, It's Time For SATs Reading Test Bingo


In what must be the article with the shortest shelf life that I've ever written I've made some tongue-in-cheek predictions for the content of the 2019 Reading SATs:

Read it here: https://www.tes.com/news/eyes-down-its-time-sats-reading-test-bingo

Friday, 8 February 2019

Times Tables Fluency and the KS2 SATs

How important is times tables fluency for the KS2 SATs? I'd say quite important.

When we are fluent in speaking a language, we can speak it without thinking much about it. That kind of fluency will be useful for year 6 children to have when it comes to the tests in May.

I looked through the 2018 SATs papers to see just how many questions required some times tables knowledge.

Here's what I discovered:

  • In Paper 1 (Arithmetic) there are 19 out of 36 questions which definitely require children to have fluent times tables knowledge.
  • In Papers 2 and 3 (Reasoning) there are 18 out of 44 questions which also require children to have fluent times tables knowledge.
But why might fluency be important? Can't children just work out the times tables without knowing them by heart?

Well, yes, they could, but it would cost them time.

For Paper 1 children are given 30 minutes, meaning that they have less than a minute per question. For Papers 2 and 3 there are 40 minutes per question - this means children have about 2 minutes per question.


In a question where 8 different times tables facts must be recalled (see above), it is obvious that this needs to be done quickly so that children can focus on the procedure of answering the question. In the same questions accuracy is essential too: if children are fluent with the times tables facts they are less likely to make mistakes.

If children are spending too much time working out times tables facts they risk going over that l or 2 minute per question; in turn they risk not having time to finish the test.

But, looking at the 2018 tests revealed something else: most of the times tables facts that children needed to use to answer the questions were fairly easy: the sort of times tables that are learned in years 1, 2 and 3. The times tables grid here shows exactly which times tables facts are required. The hardest times tables facts (such as 7 x 8, 9 x 8, 11 x 11) weren't required. The most common facts needed were below 6 x 6 with majority of the additional facts coming from the 2, 3 and 4 times tables.

But children need to be able to do more than recall them quickly; they need to be fluent enough to use and apply them. It's not just about remembering the facts but being able to recognise relationships between numbers. For example, the questions below require children to spot related facts:



I've put together a PowerPoint presentation which contains all the questions that require some times tables knowledge. I've animated the working out and answers for each question too so that these can be used flexibly. The PowerPoint (which the images used above are taken from) can be downloaded here: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/powerpoint-to-demonstrate-the-need-for-times-tables-fluency-in-sats-12065667. I used it with year 5 parents who found it useful to know how important times tables were going to be for SATs.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

From The @TES Blog: 5 Things To Do Instead Of Revising For SATs

From The @TES Blog: 5 Things To Do Instead Of Revising For SATsThis might come across as idealistic or cynical. It might even sound hypocritical to those who’ve taught Year 6 alongside me. But there really is more to Year 6 than Sats revision – even in Sats week.

Regardless of your views on key stage 2 testing, it’s the system with which we’re currently lumbered. And I would always advise that children are prepared for them.

But by preparing, I don’t mean drilled to within an inch of their life: Easter booster classes, daily past papers, hours of homework and the like. There are other ways of helping children to be ready for that week of testing in May – ways that prepare them mentally; ways that ensure they remain emotionally intact.

Here are five suggestions:

Click here to read the whole article: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/five-things-do-instead-sats-revision

Friday, 16 March 2018

Comprehension Strategies And The KS2 Reading Test - What and How Should We Teach?

Comprehension Strategies And The KS2 Reading Test - What and How Should We Teach?
In my first blog post in this series I explored the difference between reading comprehension strategies and reading skills. I noted that many of the skills that are tested in the KS2 SATs also have a matching reading comprehension strategy. With the conclusion that the deliberate use of strategies develops and embeds skills, I posed a question to myself:

Is there a way to teach comprehension strategies that prepares children well for the KS2 reading test?

In answering my second question I had to consider that which is different about the reading test. Whereas the commonly-used comprehension strategies do not require children to give written answers to questions they ask or generate themselves, the test does. This is the main difference. In addition to this, the year 5/6 National Curriculum objectives mention no requirement for children to provide written answers to questions and many of the objectives aren't tested at all by the SATs. The objectives circled in red aren't tested by SATs; the ones outlined in blue are.
Without having any evidence back this up with, I believe that there are children who, having been taught strategies which have become skills, are able to complete the reading test, confidently giving written answers to the questions it asks. I suspect that these children are also able writers and they have probably had a healthy relationship with literacy in general from an early age. There is a potential argument here for a sole focus on teaching comprehension strategies and never asking children to spend time practising giving written answers to comprehension questions.

But, I also think that there are probably children for whom some explicit instruction about how to give written answers to comprehension questions will be useful and necessary (if they are to have a chance of demonstrating their reading skills in a test, which all year 6 children are). Again, I have no research evidence to back this up, only anecdotal experience. However, there is research evidence to back up the idea that particular written activities do support reading comprehension.

I turned to Steve Graham and Michael Hebert's 'Writing to Read' report which states:

"Writing-about-text activities had a positive impact on struggling students’ understanding of a text. An important key to success in using these activities with lower-achieving students was to provide them with ongoing practice and explicit instruction."

The report recommends that students do write in response to things they have read and outlines a series of recommendations of activities. One of the recommendations is that teachers should have students answer questions about a text in writing, or create and answer written questions about a text:

"Answering questions about a text can be done verbally, but there is greater benefit from performing such activities in writing. Writing answers to text questions makes them more memorable, as writing an answer provides a second form of rehearsal. This practice should further enhance the quality of students’ responses, as written answers are available for review, reevaluation, and reconstruction (Emig, 1977).

For generating or responding to questions in writing, students either answered questions about a text in writing; received practice doing so; wrote their own questions about text read; or learned how to locate main ideas in a text, generated written questions for them, and then answered them in writing. These practices had a small but consistently positive impact on improving the reading comprehension of students in grade 6–12 when compared to reading or reading instruction."

Lemov et al's 'Reading Reconsidered' also provides plenty of classroom evidence that writing supports reading comprehension. They summarise:

"...the strategic use of writing made reading and discussions of reading- the other core activities of English class—more rigorous, focused, productive and engaging- ‘better’ in short.  Writing is a deeply valuable endeavor in its own right, but it is also an endeavor that works in synergy with reading in specific ways."

From 'Writing To Read'
Activities other than answering questions include responding to a text through writing personal reactions or analyses/interpretations of the text, writing summaries of a text, taking notes on a text, and creating and/or answering questions about a text in writing. Actually, all of these activities have a greater effect size than answering questions and therefore should be explored further in the primary classroom - another blog post for another time!

What does come through both the 'Writing To Read' report and Lemov et al's 'Reading Reconsidered' chapter entitled 'Writing For Reading' is an emphasis on explicit teaching: if we want children to be able to write well about the things they read in order to develop a better understanding of what they read, we must explicitly teach these skills - they must be modelled well by the teacher.

What I have found is that evidence from both research and successful classroom practice shows that an approach to teaching reading strategies which includes giving children the opportunities to practise giving written answers to comprehension questions (in order to prepare them well for a test) is not something we should avoid, but is something that, if done right, could be beneficial to the children we teach.
From the IES guide
So, is there a way to teach comprehension strategies that prepares children well for the KS2 reading test? Yes, I think so. As long as there is modelling, discussion (book talk) and time for children to practise, a sequence of learning that will improve reading skills can (and should) focus both on teaching reading comprehension strategies (as outlined in the EEF and IES guidance) and the elements of the National Curriculum (as outlined in the content domain in the KS2 test developers' framework) as they can act reciprocally due to similarities between the skills and the strategies. Reading instruction which includes, amongst other things, teachers, asking children to respond in writing to well-written questions based on a manageable amount of text is a good idea when preparing children for KS2 tests. It shouldn't be the only element of reading instruction but it should help. Where children lack particular skills it will be best to focus modelling and practise on those particular skills.

If children are only given written comprehension activities the comprehension strategies are not likely to be employed or developed. But if the written comprehension activities are backed up with explicit teaching of the supporting strategies (as well as vocabulary, any other necessary background knowledge and how to write answers), then comprehension strategies should be developed. Such explicit teaching (including modelling and discussion) should focus on ensuring that children know what the strategy is, how it is used and why and when to use it. Children can be shown how to use the strategies when completing written comprehension activities.

The York Reading for Meaning Project assessed three reading comprehension interventions delivered by teaching assistants in 20 primary schools. The three interventions were carried out with children who had been identified as having the poor comprehender profile - the three interventions were intended to help children who struggled with reading comprehension to overcome their problems. The three interventions differed:
  • Oral Language Programme: vocabulary, reciprocal teaching with spoken language, figurative language and spoken narrative
  • Text Level Programme: metacognitive strategies, reciprocal teaching with written language, inferencing from text and written narrative
  • Combined Programme: all of the above (vocabulary, reciprocal teaching with spoken language, figurative language, spoken narrative, metacognitive strategies, reciprocal teaching with written language, inferencing from text and written narrative)
Based on the findings, the report concludes that 'the Oral Language intervention overall was the most effective of the three programmes. Theoretically, this finding provides strong support for the theory that the reading comprehension difficulties seen in those who show the poor comprehender profile are a secondary consequence of these children’s oral language weaknesses.'.

Here then is evidence that children who are struggling with reading comprehension, and are falling behind, will benefit from an oral language programme as intervention. In the context of this blog post - which focuses on teaching all children (including those are aren't struggling with comprehension but are still learning new skills and strategies) - it is worth questioning whether these research findings bear relevance - should we scrap writing as part of first teaching of reading and focus solely on an oral approach?
Examples of combined programmes from The York Reading for Meaning Project: An Overview


However, the outcomes of the project also show that 'all three interventions (Text Level, Oral Language and Combined) improved children’s reading comprehension skills'. In this blog post I have been suggesting what is essentially a combined programme for everyday classroom-based reading instruction (see the examples above). The question the research doesn't answer is, where first teaching of reading comprehension is concerned (i.e. not interventions for poor comprehenders), whether or not the benefits of writing discussed above are still outweighed by only focusing on an oral-only approach.

What is potentially telling is that 'the children who received the Combined programme experienced all components but at half the quantity of the other two intervention programmes'. What if children were given a whole quantity of both oral and written approaches? Isn't this something that a reading lesson, with an adequate amount of time given over to it, could offer children that an intervention (in this study set at 30 minutes long) could not?

It would be interesting to know which approach (oral, text or combined) shows the best results for all learners rather than interventions for poor comprehenders . For teachers working on helping children to be prepared for KS2 testing it would be good to see research which focuses on first teaching for all learners where the results are taken from SATs performance. Whether you are in support of year 6 testing or not, they are currently a feature of the UK's education system. In order for children to feel prepared (and hopefully not stressed by uncertainty about the tests) and in order for schools to demonstrate accurately the reading ability of their children, most schools will want to allow children to practise giving written answers to comprehension questions. Would it be too much of a gamble in this case for schools to take an oral-only approach?

Expanding on some of the ideas in this blog post, in previous blog posts I have written about...

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Scaffolding Structures for Reading Comprehension Skills

This is a very different blog post to the sort I normally write; it represents some very hypothetical thinking and the purpose of writing it is to open it up to discussion. My hypothesis is that the reading skills outlined in the English Reading Test Framework for KS2 (and KS1) might be best taught in a particular order. I also hypothesise that when teaching particular skills (represented as being higher up the model pictured) teachers can guide children through how to use other skills (lower down the model) to arrive at a better ability to practice and use the skills that are higher up the model. First of all, here's the model I've put together to which I refer:


Skills (taken from English Reading Test Framework for KS2) are listed in the order that they might best be taught. This suggested order is based on the idea that some reading skills might be required prior to developing others. The most basic skills are towards the bottom.

The inclusion of 2d (inference) may depend on the text type. For example, in many non-fiction texts there is no requirement to infer information, only to retrieve it. In these cases the 2d (inference) step/building block can be skipped.

The only reading skill from the test framework which isn’t included here is 2h (make comparisons within the text). It is possible that texts can be compared at many different levels, for example, the vocabulary used can be compared (2a), summaries of plot can be compared (2c) or structure of the text can be compared (2f). The skill of making comparisons (2h) could be seen as a ‘floating’ skill – one which could be applied in different ways alongside other reading skills.

All of the following symbols and colours refer to the Reading Roles, a system I designed to make the different skills memorable for children and teachers. Read more about the Reading Roles here: http://thatboycanteach.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/reading-roles-cognitive-domains-made.html


In order for children to begin to make inferences they need to at least be able to retrieve information in the text, and before this they need to be able to understand what the words mean.

(2a)       give/explain the meaning of words in context
(2b)       retrieve and record information/identify key details from fiction and non-fiction
(2d)       make inferences from the text/explain and justify inferences with evidence from the text

2f and 2g are very interlinked as they are both about meaning – one with a focus on word and phrase choice, and one with a focus on content choice. It is possible that 2g and 2f should precede 2d in the teaching sequence but if making inferences is one way in which we take information from a text, then arguably we need that information to make meaning; we can then go on to identify and explain how that meaning is enhanced through word choice and how the content included contributes to the meaning. The fact that these skills are not included in the KS1 test framework might suggest that this is correct, and that these are more advanced skills than making inferences.

2g – Author’s purpose

(2a)       give/explain the meaning of words in context
(2b)       retrieve and record information/identify key details from fiction and non-fiction
(2d)       make inferences from the text/explain and justify inferences with evidence from the text
(2g)       identify/explain how meaning is enhanced through choice of words and phrases

2f – Language structure and choice

(2a)       give/explain the meaning of words in context
(2b)       retrieve and record information/identify key details from fiction and non-fiction
(2d)       make inferences from the text/explain and justify inferences with evidence from the text
(2g)       identify/explain how meaning is enhanced through choice of words and phrases
(2f)        identify/explain how information/narrative content is related and contributes to meaning as a whole

Once children understand word meanings, can find and infer information, explain how language has been used to communicate meaning and, as a result, can understand the meaning of a whole piece of text, then they can begin to summarise the text, or make predictions based on their understanding. It might not be necessary to summarise a text before making a prediction, and the ability to summarise a text should not rely on the ability to make predictions based on it. These two skills are both included in the KS1 test framework, but children at this stage summarise and make predictions based only on word meaning, information retrieval and inference (missing out 2f and 2g) – summaries and predictions at this stage might be at a simpler level. It is probably true that in KS2 similar summaries and predictions could be made, without paying heed to 2g and 2f.

2c - Summarising

(2a)       give/explain the meaning of words in context
(2b)       retrieve and record information/identify key details from fiction and non-fiction
(2d)       make inferences from the text/explain and justify inferences with evidence from the text
(2g)       identify/explain how meaning is enhanced through choice of words and phrases
(2f)        identify/explain how information/narrative content is related and contributes to meaning as a whole
(2c)       summarise main ideas from more than one paragraph

2e – Predicting

(2a)       give/explain the meaning of words in context
(2b)       retrieve and record information/identify key details from fiction and non-fiction
(2d)       make inferences from the text/explain and justify inferences with evidence from the text
(2g)       identify/explain how meaning is enhanced through choice of words and phrases
(2f)        identify/explain how information/narrative content is related and contributes to meaning as a whole
(2e)       predict what might happen from details stated and implied

The model suggests that an understanding of word meaning is core to all reading – this model assumes that children already have the skills of decoding, sight recognition and phonological awareness. The model only includes reading skills outlined by the test framework and does not include factors such as the necessity of activating prior background and literacy knowledge when reading.

The model also suggests that there is a hierarchy of reading skills and that children might benefit from having some reading skills taught before others.

It also suggests that when requiring a child to work on a skill which is ‘higher up’ the model that they work through a sequence of skills usage in order to initially scaffold their ability to exercise the ‘higher’ skill. For example, if requiring a child to summarise a passage, they might first answer questions about the vocabulary used, the information contained within (given both literally and inferentially) and what the authors purpose was with regards to structure and language choices.

This model focuses on the following strands of Scarborough’s reading rope: vocabulary, verbal reasoning and language structures:


I hope I have made my thinking clear in this blog post and I would really appreciate any thoughts about what I have proposed. If you can back any of your comments either with research or with case studies from experience then even better!

Monday, 16 October 2017

Reading Roles Testimonials



What Is Reading Roles?

The concept of 'Reading Roles' (resources available on TES resources) is to assign a well-known job, role or profession to each element of the reading content domain. Most children will already understand what the jobs entail in real life and therefore will fairly immediately be able to gain an understanding of each cognitive domain.

Each domain has a symbol and is colour-coded so that there are further ways for the children to remember the domains and what they mean.

These could be used to colour-code questions used in class - the symbols could also be assigned to written comprehension questions so children begin to identify question types.

Click here to read more in my original blog post about Reading Roles.

What are the benefits of using Reading Roles?

Unlike other similar systems that are available, teachers and children already have a good idea of what each role entails because they are familiar with what people with those jobs do in real life. Therefore, they only have to attach the new understanding of the different domains to previously-held understanding, rather than learning two new sets of information - usually an abstract name for each domain, and its meaning.

Reading Roles help teachers to be more deliberate in their teaching of reading skills. Rather than just ask a question inspired by the text, teachers can be more deliberate about asking particular kinds of questions, making their lessons more focused. For example, a teacher might spend a day or a week, asking only 'Editor' questions (summarising) ensuring that they model and children practise that particular skill. Other similar systems advocate a less focused approach where lessons are not focused on particular skills.

Teachers and children are able to use different cues to remember the different elements of the content domain: some remember them by colour, some by the symbol and others by the name. Each Reading Role has a child-friendly explanation of what the domain entails.

Can I See Some Examples of How They Are Used?

Yes, here:

Click here for examples of reading comprehensions (based on RJ Palacio's 'Wonder') which use the Reading Roles.

Click here for examples of reading comprehension (based on Sandi Toksvig's 'Hitler's Canary') which use the Reading Roles.

All the questions in the above examples were generated using question stems from the Key Stage 2 tests. Alison Philipson, a Literacy consultant in Bradford, has put together some very useful documents containing question stems taken from the KS1 and KS2 SATs which are all organised by the domains. These documents have been invaluable in our implementation of the Reading Roles.

What Do Others Think of The Reading Roles?

@son1bun (an English specialist at the Egmont Reading for Pleasure School of the Year 2018) discovered the Reading Roles via Twitter and had this to say:
"With the 2014 Curriculum, came the realisation that the Assessment focuses (AFs) for reading, which we had become so used to, were on longer 'in'. With a sharp intake of breath, we all began to tentatively use the words, Cognitive Domains (CDs). After the Frameworks for the KS2 tests were released and it finally dawned on us, that our beloved AFs had been buried. 
As the English lead for my school, I set about supporting my staff to get to grips with the CDs. We had always placed a great emphasis on teaching comprehension strategies, from Reception to Year 6, so it was just about finding an interesting way to do it. That's where Twitter came in. 
That Boy Can Teach (TBCT) is a prevalent voice on Edutwitter (which is where I first came across him). With his, 'golden nuggets' about writing, reading and all things education, he quickly became a favourite of mine. 
He did a series of blogs about reading and when I came across the Reading Roles, it was a eureka moment. TBCT stated, 'the concept of 'Reading Roles' is to assign a well-known job, role or profession to each of the domains'. It literally was a simple as that!

I introduced this to staff in the spring term and the response from teachers was 100 % positive. Most importantly though, the children love them. It is amazing how quickly they remembered the role and the domain it linked to...even in Reception. The roles are so easy to say and the children really relate to all the roles, as they are familiar to them.

I would strongly recommend this resource. It does what it says on the tin. If you want to get your children engaged in taking ownership of their reading comprehension, in a fun way, reading roles work... simple! Thanks TBCT!"
@rachstebbs (a teacher at my own school) had this to say:
"The introduction of Reading Roles to my class has helped me as a teacher to develop whole class reading sessions and think much more about the questions I am asking. Each one aligns to a domain and so I can be sure that I teach all necessary skills in a structured way. 
For children who had yet to reach the expected level, I initially focused on the Translator and Reporter skills. This meant that I could ensure they had understood the vocabulary in the text and were able to apply that vocabulary when retrieving answers. Initially this took them a significant proportion of the lesson, but I found that their speed increased as they became more adept at investigating the vocabulary (reading for context, using a dictionary etc). Gradually the vocabulary became less of a question focus because they were able to quickly analyse unfamiliar words using the same strategies, without needing the scaffold of an actual question.  
This meant they could begin to use other reading roles to answer a wider range of questions. Each role was taught explicitly, and the class quickly became familiar with the roles, as well as their associated colours and images. Initially, I stuck with a few limited question stems, but as the skills became more embedded, I could use a wider variety. This variety meant that children could practice one skill without it boring them! 
For those who were working at or above ARE, the reading roles developed their independence and confidence in answering questions. All answers were edited before marking, so after a discussion children could expand or change their responses if they wished."
Ben Trevail (@BenTrevail), Assistant Head at Edward Feild Primary School, has used Reading Roles too:
"Reading Roles have played a crucial part in the success of our move towards whole class reading across the school from Year 2 to Year 6. They provide a common language for abstract skills used by teachers and pupils and have been shared with parents too.
Each lesson focuses on one specific skill and using the roles has helped pupils understand the elements of the content domain to be taught and later assessed. There's advice in the EEF Improving Literacy in KS2 document about the gradual release of responsibility model and the explicit teaching of each skill so that's what we're trying to do. After Christmas the plan is for children to practise multiple roles in one lesson based on a stimulus. 
We also use them as our reading targets, building up a picture of pupils as readers by assessing their competence in each role."

Friday, 15 September 2017

9 Important Changes to the Primary Maths Curriculum and Assessment

In response to the DfE's latest documents, I wrote this for Third Space Learning. It's a summary of the key changes in the way primary maths will be assessed over the next few years:

On 14th September, just as we were all getting settled into the new school year, the DfE published not one, but two documents of considerable importance: ‘Primary assessment in England: Government consultation response’ and the 2017/2018 ‘Teacher assessment frameworks at the end of KS2’. Both documents reveal changes that will no doubt affect our approach as teachers and leaders.

Whilst the most imminent and significant changes involve writing and reading, there are also some interesting developments in Maths.

Monday, 11 September 2017

KS2 Maths SATs On Reflection: Why We Teach For Mastery In Maths

Here's one I wrote for Third Space Learning: https://www.thirdspacelearning.com/blog/2017/ks2-maths-sats-on-reflection-teaching-for-mastery

‘Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.’ - Margaret J. Wheatley

Perhaps that’s a little over the top, but there’s something in it. As a teacher it’s always worth reflecting on a year just gone, looking back at what went well and what might need changing for the next year. I spent the year as Maths and UKS2 lead whilst teaching in Year 6.

As such I have the privilege of being up to date with the changes taking place in primary education, especially with regards to the expected standards in assessment. Now that I’ve got a few weeks of holiday under my belt, my mind is a little fresher. It's on natural then, that I begin to look back upon KS2 Maths SATs 2017. Read on for my reflections on the end of July and the ever-present changes to how Maths is assessed in UK primary schools...

https://www.thirdspacelearning.com/blog/2017/ks2-maths-sats-on-reflection-teaching-for-mastery

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Changing The Teaching of Reading: Did It Work?


Disclaimer: Although this blog post is all about SATs data, it's not what I'm all about, nor has it been our singular focus this year. This blog post merely serves to analyse test data, however flawed it is turning out to be, in the spirit of transparency.

Regular readers will know I've blogged quite a lot about reading over the last year (slight understatement). I've developed ways of teaching reading (based on research, not just whim) which I've shared with others, and which others have used in their own classrooms. I've been eager to share my approaches because I've been excited about them, but there was always a question in the back of my mind: "What if they don't work?"

So, as results day approached, I was worried for more than just one reason: I hoped I had not let my own school down, and I hoped as well that I hadn't sent those who'd tried some of my ideas down the wrong path.

And because I've shouted loudly about how we've tackled our approach to teaching reading, particularly in year 6, it's only really right that I share something of our results with my readers.

I feel that first off I must signpost an excellent blog post by Mr. Jennings: 29% to 92%, a reading journey! The blog is an in-depth exploration of everything his school did to make a supremely impressive jump in their percentage of children reaching the 100 scaled score in the 2017 key stage 2 reading test. I feel honoured to have been mentioned in the blog post as part of Mr. Jennings' journey, but I now hail him as my new hero! What an achievement! I shall be learning from all the amazing work he has done this year.

Attainment

Well, we didn't quite get a 63 percentage point increase in our reading results - ours was a much more modest 21 percentage point increase, meaning that roughly half of our 60-strong cohort reached the magic 100 mark.

I was pleased with the increase - I've been told that a school working very hard to improve something can expect a 10 percentage point increase in results on average.

However, I was hoping that we would get 60% of children reaching the pass mark. Looking into the data, I found there were a number of children who were between 1 and 4 marks off getting 26 marks - these children would have brought the percentage of children reaching the 100 scaled score to my desired 60%. (I am hoping to have 3 of these children's scripts remarked.)

Progress

So, whilst our attainment was low, it wasn't a surprise. Our school's history and context (in short: Inadequate Ofsted December 2013 leading to academy conversion January 2015, 94% EAL, 37% disadvantage) means that our children haven't consistently had good teaching.

A review of historical data shows that only 22.2% of this cohort made average or above average progress during their time in lower key stage 2, and, as a result, only 5.6% of them were working at age related expectations in reading at the end of year 4. This figure was 26% (at ARE) by the end of year 5.

Our online tracking system (SPTO) takes a CTF file from the NCA Tools website and assigns points to the different scaled scores. Using this data, this 94.8% of this cohort have shown to have made average or above progress. In fact, 91.4% made accelerated progress. Looking at progress from official key stage 1 data shows that only 10% of children didn't make expected progress - at the beginning of the year that figure was 43% not making expected progress across the key stage.

So, even though our attainment results don't yet reflect the progress being made due to low starting points, there is considerable reason to believe that the approaches we took in the teaching of reading have had a positive impact on the children.

Test to Test

One or two of you may remember that I reported that before Christmas almost 50% of the cohort achieved the pass mark on the 2016 reading test. This is something that has caused me quite a bit of consternation: did no progress occur between December and May, given that the same percentage of children passed in May as in the December?

So, I spent some time looking into the data. Thankfully, I'd kept the scores from when the children tried the 2016 test as we wanted to see if taking the 2016 test was a good indicator of how well children would do on the actual test so that we could rely on using it as a practice paper in the future.

Positively, I discovered that:

  • two extra children 'passed' in May who hadn't passed in December (one child who had 'passed' in December didn't 'pass' in May).
  • of the aforementioned children who had scaled scores of 97, 98 or 99, all of them got significantly more marks (between 6 and 12) than on the 2016 test and all but one of them (the one who 'passed' in December but not May) got a higher scaled score, for example one child moved from a scaled score of 90 to 97.
  • most of our lowest attaining children, and our SEND children, made the most progress between the two tests: some of the most vulnerable children getting a double digit increase in both their scaled score and number of marks gained.
  • overall, children had made progress, some very impressive, from one test to the next, even if this did not mean that they achieved the 100 scaled score.
Interestingly, I also found that a number of children who 'passed' both the tests achieved lower scaled scores in the 2017 test than in the 2016 test, with an average of a -2 points difference. For some children it appeared that the 2017 test, although easier, with its raised pass mark was actually harder to pass than the more difficult 2016 test with its low pass mark.

So, is the 2016 test a good indicator of how well a child might do in the 2017 test? Yes, although some children may get an equal, or lower, scaled score on the more recent test as it could be considered harder to pass.

And does the fact that our percentage of children passing both tests despite the extra teaching time in the middle mean that our approach to teaching reading didn't work? I believe not as most children made progress between the two tests, gaining both extra marks and higher scaled scores - this was particularly evident for lower attainers. 

However, it draws attention to a group of children who were scoring in the 90s on the 2016 test in December who would have benefited from some additionality - this is the challenge for next year: what does that intervention look like? What do those children need in order to be more consistent when answering comprehension questions? Are there other factors that meant these particular children struggled to reach the pass mark, despite showing progress?

I hope that this blog post has been read with interest and without judgement - I only seek to be transparent. I am fairly certain that I can conclude that what we have done in reading has been successful on the whole, and that like most new approaches, now just needs some adjustments and additions. However, I do share this hoping that I might gain insight from outsiders on how else I might interpret the data and make conclusions - for example, if it seems to you that my approach hasn't at all worked, I'd prefer to know that and not waste any more time on it!

A small request: I'd be interested if you would share with me, publicly or privately, the increase in percentage you have experienced between the 2016 and 2017 reading results (between last year's cohort and this year's).

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

KS2 Tests 2017 Maths SATs Round-Up


https://www.thirdspacelearning.com/blog/2017/ks2-sats-results-2017-what-they-mean-what-they-ll-never-tell-you-what-to-do-next

I produced a quick response to the KS2 maths SATs results for the Third Space Learning blog.

In it I cover what to do once results are opened: support staff, conduct a marking review, report sensitively to parents and children, learn from the results and look for the positives in the results.

Monday, 3 July 2017

To My Brilliant Year Six Teachers

To my brilliant year six teachers,

Thank you and well done for all your incredibly hard work this year. I could not have asked for more commitment and dedication to the children of our school. They have received top-notch teaching and a highly-tailored curriculum this year - you have thought of each and every one, assessing their needs and then working on them meticulously to help them to make, in so many cases, very rapid progress.

You have had the highest of expectations for all the children in your care and have not let anyone get away with anything sub-standard. At the time, that might make you feel like an ogre, but, it is absolutely necessary in ensuring that the children have the best possible chance of present and future success.

It has been so encouraging to see how you have worked together, trying out new things and analysing their success. You have really made every effort to be excellent teachers - and it has paid off. Your self-reflectiveness and your desire to always better yourself has been an absolute gift, both to me as your leader and to the children.

And so, whatever the 2017 KS2 tests results say, I stand with you and support you. Should they be good, we will celebrate. Should they be disappointing, we will look for and celebrate the successes that are sure to be there. And we will optimistically plan for the future, resolutely seeking ways to better our practice from this year. 

Yes, I am now speaking about 'we' and not 'you' because, although your personal commitment is independently commendable, we are a team and we did this together. This is not a case of 'you', it is 'us' - that 'us' includes all the school's leaders and every other member of staff who has touched the lives of our outgoing year sixes. We did this together and we will stand together.

Thank you though for all the times you felt you were on your own, but you kept on going anyway - you truly do put the children at the centre of all you do.

When those results come in, think not of them as the only measure of each child's achievements, no matter how well they have done. They do not measure all the things that you have told me, and that I have seen, throughout the year: the small wins and the big successes. That child who was working on year two objectives who can now successfully demonstrate understanding of many year six objectives. That child who only started with us this year, having not been in school for a good while. That child who has discovered a love of reading, of writing, of maths, of history, of Shakespeare. That child who now speaks up in class. All those children who are raring to go to secondary school, confident that they are learners and that they will be successful as long as they hold high expectations for themselves. You did that. 

They might not thank you for it. But I do. And in years to come they will look back and remember all that you have done and they will wish that they had thanked you. 

But I know you don't do it for the thanks. You do it because you care. There is not enough thanks to cover that.

A vast understatement to finish, because anything attempting to sum it up would sound far too hyperbolic and platitudinous: this has been a great year and you should be proud of what you have achieved with the children.

This was re-blogged on the TES site: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/sats-year-6-teachers-results-day-there-arent-enough-words-say-thank

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

How To Stay Sane Now The KS2 SATs Are Over


The fourth and final post in my series of blog posts for Third Space Learning focusing on teacher and pupil wellbeing during the key stage 2 SATs testing period:

An almost audible collective sigh of relief rises from Year 6 teachers and KS2 pupils across the realm. Suddenly, the prospect of life beyond SATs becomes tantalisingly real and, at least for now, it is there to be enjoyed.

Feelings during the next few weeks will (though I hate to have to remind you) morph from the relief that the end of the SATs week brings into the impatient wait for results day on July 4th.

Click here to read my five tips for staying sane now that the key stage 2 test are over: https://www.thirdspacelearning.com/blog/2017/sayonara-sats2017-5-golden-rules-for-year-6-teachers-to-make-the-most-of-lessons-after-sats

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Year 6 Teachers, You've Got This! Your 5-Step Game Plan for SATs Week 2017


The latest in my series of blog posts for Third Space Learning focuses on SATs week itself. The focus is on teacher and pupil wellbeing and provides 5 steps to take to ensure year 6 teachers and pupils aren't too frazzled by the end of it.

So, the time has come. SATs week 2017 is upon us. On Monday morning, after months (hopefully years) of preparation, the nation's Year 6 children will sit down to the first of 2017's Key Stage 2 National Assessments.

Year 6 teachers across the land will be pacing halls and classrooms, catching glimpses of questions and hoping beyond hope that the primary school children in their classes will do their very best.

And I assume you're probably one of those teachers, or a supportive Head or SLT member.

You'll be feeling a heady mix of excitement and nervousness while anticipating the children’s chance to show off all they've learned. You might also be wondering what on earth the test-writers have come up with this time.

Click here to read on over at the Third Space Learning blog: http://thirdspacelearning.com/blog/2017/year-6-teachers-you-ve-got-this-your-5-step-game-plan-for-2017-ks2-sats

From the TES Blog: The Pre-SATs Checklist: An Eight-Point Guide To Ensure You're Ready

Here's one I wrote for the TES blog all about those little things that might be forgotten in the run up to SATs but that, if sorted, will make the week run much more smoothly.

By now, as a Year 6 teacher, you're probably fairly fed up of Sats-related advice, but bear with me. You see, there's always the chance that some minor detail has been missed. Sure, your scripts are all locked away in the safe, you know which test is happening on which day and you can bet that the children are as ready as they can be, but is there anything else you need to sort out in these last few days before the Key Stage 2 Sats tests kick off?

Here's my personal last-minute checklist, which I will be running through in the next few days.

Click here to read for free on the TES blog: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/pre-sats-checklist-eight-point-guide-ensure-youre-ready

Monday, 27 March 2017

Preparing For SATs: Advice For Year 6 Teachers

If you're a Year 6 teacher this Easter, you definitely don't need me to wax lyrical about the pressure you're feeling right now. Teachers up and down the country are, in their own way, stepping up their preparations for that one week in May that so much of their year seems to have been geared towards. Instead, I’d like to offer some advice from my own practice.

Year 6 teacher, click here for my top 5 tips on how to preserve your sanity over the next few weeks!

Whole blog post hosted at the Third Space Learning blog.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Reading Roles: Elements Of The Content Domain Made Memorable

A few years ago there were many resources available supporting children's understanding of the Assessment Focuses. Teachers found it beneficial to help children to identify the kinds of questions they were being asked about texts. The idea behind making children aware of the question type is that they might have a better idea of what the answer should look like in order to give better verbal and written answers.

With the recent introduction of the content domain (as set out in the English Reading Test Framework) and the upset caused by the difficulty of last year's KS2 reading test I set about reviving an idea that an old colleague of mine and I had a few years ago. Back then, we joked about conceiving it and setting up as consultants, peddling it around the local area but it wasn't even worth creating the resource as there were so many out there already that did the job just fine. Others out there are devising ways to help children understand the elements of the content domain however I believe the simple resource I have devised has some merits.

The concept of 'Reading Roles' is to assign a well-known job, role or profession to each of the domains. Most children will already understand what the jobs entail in real life and therefore will fairly immediately be able to gain an understanding of each element of the content domain. We have been trialing this for a number of weeks now and the children are already able to articulate what questions in each domain require of them. There is still work to be done - confidence in identifying question types consistently, but they now have the tool to do so.

Here are the 8 elements of the content domain and their assigned 'roles' (written for KS2):


This resource can be downloaded here, along with its KS1 counterpart and posters for both KS1 and KS2 containing one domain/role on each page.

As is obvious each domain is colour-coded and is assigned a simple symbol as a memory aid. We have used the colours and symbols to identify question types in the comprehension tasks we have set - the aim of this is to familiarise the children with the question types. Eventually we will remove the colours and symbols and focus more on question type identification. See here for examples of the comprehension tasks I've set in this way.

Click here for some testimonials from people who have used Reading Roles effectively in their school.

Again, as with the Scaffolding Inference technique, I'd love to hear from anyone who begins to use this. It'd be very interesting to see how this helps other children and in what ways it can be developed and used.

With thanks to Herts for Learning for the focus of each element of the content domain.