Another year, another set of test results

I know I’m not alone in worrying about the amount of pressure children are put under to pass their Sats tests.

Teaching unions too have expressed concern about how “teaching to the test” can restrict the variety of the curriculum.

In Leicester for example, intensive one-to-one “coaching” to get youngsters to the necessary level, aimed at those on the cusp of reaching the target, is one of the ways the city council is trying to raise results.

Is raises results, yes, and today’s data proves that – I’ve estimated that about an extra 70 11-year-olds have reached the level four benchmark this year compared with 2007 – but does that really mean anything?

If the extra teaching to get them up to the benchmark means they’re better educated, read better, write better and retain the information, that’s all well and good, but schools should be doing this anyway, and increasingly Sats results are more about politics.

Leicester and Leicestershire moving up the national league table – which they have – means that central government looks more favourably on the education authorities.

So, after trying to analyse all the data today, let’s spare a thought for the people at the coalface.

As much as anything the message must be “congratulations” to the hundreds of 11-year-olds who did well. “Congratulations” too, to the hard-working army of teachers who helped to get them there.

I’ve spent the day ploughing through hundreds of figures from 152 local authorities in England to see how Leicester and Leicestershire have done in comparison.

It’s heartening to see the county’s schools continue to do so well, they are now 43rd best in the country, hampered to a certain extent because, due to Leicestershire’s unusual education system, many take their tests in the first year of high school rather than the last year of primary school and therefore there is arguably less emphasis placed on them.

The city too is continuing to get better although the huge leap up the national league table which took place last year has, understandably, not happened again. A more modest rise of two places means the city is now 130th, still not good enough for some, but considering it was second from bottom for several years, is no mean feat.

There will be intense scrutiny to make sure this continues.

Boys’ achievement hasn’t improved – the gender gap is wider in English and maths combined, which considering the work channelled into helping boys to improve their reading skills must be a cause for concern.

The proportion of pupils who haven’t reached the required level four in English, dropped by one percentage point. This was also the case nationally, but it will be a disappointment that this happened in Leicester too, where so much additional investment has been put into raising standards.

But at the end of the day, it’s all about statistics. And you know what you can do with those. I’ll blog on this tomorrow.

About Ian

A journalist working in Brussels
This entry was posted in Education analysis and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Another year, another set of test results

  1. Andrew says:

    The other problem with intensive coaching is that the result may be a temporary blip rather than sustained improvement. It is, however, good to see the local authority concentrating on primary education – many of the problems in secondary schools are due to problems at the primary stage, but discussions of what to do with New College or Riverside (or whichever school is currently in the news) very seldom mention the state of the city’s primary schools.

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