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To Sat or Not to Sat?

With the deadline for registering pupils for the KS2 tests on NCA Tools fast approaching (17th March), there is one particular question that I have been asked quite frequently in recent days: Is it better for me to enter my child with (insert description of a particular set of Special Educational Needs and/or Disability here) for the SATs or to disapply them?

The first part of my answer is to explain that there is no such thing as *disapplying a child from the tests. Never has been. (There is disapplication from the National Curriculum – but that is quite different.) What I find people generally mean when they use the ‘d-word’ is to register a child as “working below the standard of the test” (code B in the pupil registration procedure). NB this distinction is more than mere semantics. ‘Disapplied’ could lead one to assume that such a child was discounted from the published data, which is not the case.

Having established that what the questioner really means is “Should I indicate that they are working below the standard of the test, or should we put them in and see what happens? How will it affect my data?”, the next part of the answer is to refer to the statutory guidance, the Assessment & Reporting Arrangements (ARA) document, which states in Section 5.1:

“if pupils are considered to be able to answer the easiest questions, they should be entered for the test. These pupils may not achieve a scaled score of 100, the ‘expected standard’, but should still take the test.”

Furthermore, it states:

“Pupils shouldn’t take the tests if they:

 have not completed the KS2 programme of study, or

 are working below the overall standard of the KS2 tests, or

 are unable to participate even when using suitable access arrangements”

So, regardless of the question of the impact on school data, the statutory position is that if a child is able to answer even just a few questions on the test, they should be entered. Code B is only appropriate where a child cannot access any of the test at all.

There are a couple of other codes that could be used in certain circumstances:

J = Just arrived in the country (and therefore we have not yet been able to establish whether they are working at the standard or not)

U = Unable to access the test, although the child is working at the academic standard of the test (e.g. a sensory impairment or physical disability prevents the child from being able to access the test)

This is all explained in greater detail in section 5.2 of the ARA.

Nonetheless, having explained that there is a statutory requirement to enter a child into the tests if they can access them, the question still remains – how will it affect my data?

The first point to make here is that, whilst we know exactly how attainment and progress were worked out in 2016, there is no guarantee that the methodology won’t be tweaked for 2017. (Confirmation expected in April.)

But let’s assume the system remains the same as last year. By entering the child into the test, they will either

  • achieve a scaled score of 80 or above, or
  • (if they fail to score more than a very few marks) achieve no scaled score.

Assuming that you believe the child to be working above the Pre-Key Stage Standards (and if they weren’t, they probably shouldn’t be sitting the test in the first place) but below the Expected Standard, your teacher assessment would be HNM (“Has Not Met”). If this child then failed to achieve the scaled score of 80, in the 2016 system they were then not included at all in the school’s progress figure (but included in the attainment data). Even if DfE adjust the methodology in 2017 and decide to award an arbitrary scaled score of, say, 79 in this circumstance (which would make more sense in my opinion) you still do not stand to lose by entering the child into the test.

So – the answer to the question is the same, regardless of whether you base your approach on statutory guidance or on what produces the best data outcome: if the child can access at least some of the test, then they should take it.

Of course there are situations where it is not appropriate for a child to take the test because it is quite clear to the educational professionals that the child is working at a lower standard. In such circumstances, of course the child should not sit the test. And one would expect their teacher assessment to be based upon the Pre-Key Stage Standards (not ‘HNM’). Provided this is all done correctly then again there is no incentive, data-wise, to act in a way which is contrary to statutory guidance. If you did put such a child in to the test, knowing that they would not achieve a scaled score, then their Pre-Key Stage Standard assessment would be used in the calculation of a progress measure – just as it would if they had not been entered (code B).

There is further useful guidance on pupil registration here.

Note also that if circumstances change between Pupil registration (in March) and taking the test (in May), you will be able to amend the test attendance register accordingly (for example, if you had entered code B in March and by May come to the conclusion that the child should be taking the test).

*One further point about “disapplication” – the other situation in which I hear this word used (still wrongly) is regarding the DfE Data Checking process, whereby schools can apply to remove certain pupils from the published (validated) dataset. This process takes place in the September after the Summer term in which the SATs took place. The main scenario where a school can apply to remove a child from their data is if the child arrived from overseas during the last 2 years, from a non-English speaking country, and does not have English as their main spoken language. However, this process is entirely separate to the issue of whether or not the pupils took the tests. And it’s still not called disapplication.

Ben Fuller is the Lead Assessment Adviser at Herts for Learning

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KS2 Performance Tables (with an added surprise)

Ben Fuller, Lead Assessment Adviser at Herts for Learning

Yesterday saw the release of the KS2 Performance Tables (based on validated data). You can find the figures for any school in England here.

This means that anyone can look up your school and see inspiring data such as this:


To the casual glancer, this chart might appear to suggest that this particular school has achieved progress scores somewhere around the median. But beware, that middle section covers around 60% of schools, so what the image above actually shows is data that could be anywhere between the 21st and 80th percentiles.

The greater surprise, though, in exploring the validated data is that an unexpected  methodological change has taken place since the unvalidated data appeared in RAISEonline. This change applies to one very specific group of pupils – those pupils who were entered into the tests (reading and maths) and who failed to score enough marks to be awarded a scaled score.

In the unvalidated data, these children were excluded from the progress data (but included in attainment). (However, where children were not entered into the test because they were working below the standard of the test, their Pre-Key Stage standard teacher assessment was used instead and those children were included in the progress measure.  This seemed counter-intuitive, in terms of setting up a strange incentive for schools to enter children into a test in which they clearly were unable to achieve.)

Here’s the change: now those children have been included – provided the teacher assessment is one of the Pre Key Stage standards (PKG, PKF or PKE). If you had children who took the test and didn’t achieve a scaled score, and the teacher assessment was either PKG, PKF or PKE, your progress score will almost certainly have gone down.

If the teacher assessment for such children was HNM (Has Not Met the standard) then those children are still excluded from the measure – so the progress score should be unaffected. (This is a strange anomaly in the system. It would make more sense to me in such cases to award the same score to HNM that is used for PKG (79 points) rather than remove such a child from the progress measure altogether.)

So, if you had children who sat the KS2 tests but did not achieve a scaled score – check your validated data progress scores on the Performance Tables site. They might be different to the figures you have already been looking at in RAISEonline and Inspection Dashboard. (Both of these documents will be updated to the validated data at some point in the Spring.)

The intricacies of the KS2 progress model are very well explained in this excellent blog by James Pembroke (aka ‘sigplus’). Thanks James for bringing my attention to this methodological change via the medium of Twitter!




Is mastery just a passing fad?


Nicola Randall, Mathematics Teaching and Learning Adviser at Herts for Learning

Before I even start to tackle this question, I think it is helpful to clarify what we mean by ‘fad’ and the best way I could think of doing this was to consider some examples.

  • Leg warmers worn anywhere other than inside a dance studio: fad
  • No make-up selfies: fad
  • Replacing actual laughing with the word “LOL”: fad
  • Dressing as clowns and scaring people: fad

Continue reading “Is mastery just a passing fad?”

Unpicking KS2 Progress Scores ahead of Friday’s RAISEonline release

Ben Fuller is Lead Assessment Adviser at Herts for Learning

This Friday our eager anticipation will be over and the new-look RAISEonline reports, showing the 2016 unvalidated data for Key Stages 1 and 2, will be released. (Interactive reports available from Friday 21st October; Summary reports available from the following Tuesday.) Information has already been provided explaining the new-look tables and charts we are going to see.

Progress in RAISEonline

Continue reading “Unpicking KS2 Progress Scores ahead of Friday’s RAISEonline release”

KS2 SATs 2016 – Lessons Learned

Louise Racher is a Mathematics Adviser at HfL

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” Confucius.

As many practitioners ponder over the “new” KS2 tests, this article picks out some of our “noble” reflections on what would make a pupil confident to tackle the KS2 test without fear and trepidation. Pupils who met Age Related Expectations in 2016 (just over half of year 6 pupils nationally) demonstrated that they had a flexibility which allowed them to manipulate not only the calculations to find solutions with ease within the constraints of the time limit – but also had a good grasp of problem solving strategies. This enabled them to access some complex multi-step problems using higher order thinking skills and demonstrate that they were able to reason with confidence. Continue reading “KS2 SATs 2016 – Lessons Learned”

Primary Computing Scheme

The new term and new school year has seen the release of the latest version of the Primary
Computing Scheme. Now in its fifth version, the scheme was first computing scheme logo design v1introduced in 2011 and has developed over time to stay in line with changes to the national curriculum and the Herts for Learning approach to assessment. Continue reading “Primary Computing Scheme”

BBC Micro:Bit in KS2?

The BBC Micro:Bit is the small (very small – smaller than a credit card) computer being Microbitdistributed to every year 7 child in the country as part of a BBC initiative to help get children coding. The Micro:Bit website tells us that this little computer is in fact 18 times faster than the original BBC Micro computers from the 80s, which some of us (not mentioning any age groups) will remember, probably fondly. Continue reading “BBC Micro:Bit in KS2?”

Primary assessment: reflection and feed-forward

Ben Fuller is Lead Assessment Adviser at Herts for Learning

Welcome to the inaugural blog post from the Herts for Learning Assessment team. The aim of this blog is to periodically bring you important updates, ideas and suggestions in the world of school assessment.

I will start with some brief reflections on 2015/16, which has certainly been an interesting year in statutory assessment, with new approaches to the ways in which pupil performance has been measured and evaluated at the ends of Key Stages 1, 2, 4 and 5, as well as ongoing developments in the debate around Reception baseline assessment.

In this post I will focus on the primary phase, where teachers in Years 2 and 6 this year had to contend with new tougher tests and a new system for teacher assessment, based on the Interim Teacher Assessment Frameworks (‘ITAFs’) – which use what has been referred to as a “secure fit” (rather than “best fit”) system.  (Personally, I prefer to call it a “must have everything” approach, as I think it an unusual use of the word ‘secure’).

20160831_104309 Continue reading “Primary assessment: reflection and feed-forward”

La rentrée – Der Schulanfang – La vuelta al cole

Welcome back!  We hope you had a relaxing summer and are looking forward to the new school year.  We hope your students were crowned with glory like the Team GB athletes with their amazing 67 medals.  If your students are still buzzing with sporting enthusiasm, don’t forget our FREE French Olympic classroom resources to keep the celebrations going a little longer.  The resources can be downloaded here.

Herts Grid for Languages

Over the summer we have been busy reviewing and updating the Grid content for Languages.  We have deleted out-of-date material and included new advice and resources to help keep you updated regarding language teaching and learning.  Please bear in mind that this is still a work in progress and there are still some sections we are reviewing content but these are clearly marked.

You can access the Grid content for Languages here.


Primary Languages Quality Mark

The number of schools signing up for PLQM, nationally, continues to grow.  For more information on the Primary Languages Quality Mark click here.  For more information, please contact

Free half hour consultations

Due to the success of our pilot project last year, we are continuing to offer a free half-hour languages consultancy to primary schools in Hertfordshire.  If you would like to book a consultation, please email

Progression and assessment

Our Progression and Assessment pack for KS2 provides guidance and support for tracking and assessing progress across the key stage.  The pack costs £100 (£50 for schools signing up to the PLQM) and can be purchased by contacting  For your FREE copy, why not book on to ‘Progression and Assessment for KS2 Languages’ on 5th October? Book here.

Encouraging pupil talk at KS2

Our new ‘On Target’ pack for French, complete with CD of sound files, provides teachers and children with the support they need to encourage spontaneous use of the target language in the classroom. The pack costs £30 and can be purchased from  For your FREE copy, why not book on to ‘Speak Up for Primary Languages’ on 27th September? Book here.

For general enquiries relating to KS2 Languages, please contact or

Support and Training

We can offer tailored support and guidance to all schools interested in improving teaching and learning as well as calendared training events.  Popular events are our ‘3 Day Subject Leader for Languages’ which starts on 4th October and our annual Subject Leader of Languages conference on 2nd December.  NEW for this year is the ‘Getting to grips with Grammar KS2 Languages’ on 1st November.

Primary NQTs

To boost your primary NQTs confidence and help them to integrate French into their everyday teaching, we now offer ‘Embedding Fun French in the primary classroom’.  The next training date will be on 15 March and can be booked here.


GCSE and A Level

We hope that your students reaped the rewards of their hard work – and yours – this summer.  As you prepare to teach the new specification for GCSE Languages, have a look at  some of these useful resources to help you.

In July, OFQUAL published Grade Descriptors for GCSE grades 2, 5 and 8.  These can be found here. For Ancient Languages, the descriptors are here.

Don’t forget that the examining boards offer lots of free resources for the new specification for both A Level and GCSE.

Support and Training

We can offer tailored support and guidance to all schools interested in improving teaching and learning as well as calendared training events.  Our annual Heads of Languages conference on 9th December will feature a session on examination issues.

Newly Qualified Teachers

Every year we provide an intensive three day training course for newly qualified Languages teachers.  This is an excellent way of providing support for your NQTs and for them to network and exchange best practice with their peers.  The first day of training is on Friday 7 October and places can be booked here.

 Foreign Language Assistants

Although provided by the British Council we still offer bespoke training to ensure that your FLA is deployed effectively and settles in quickly thanks to the support of other assistants and ourselves.  Local FLA training, based in Hertfordshire, helps them to create a network of other FLAs to ensure that their year abroad is successful both professionally and personally.

Our new FLA induction course offers all the essential training to get the best from your Language Assistant in a new, cost effective 1 day course.  Delegates will be given guidance on what is expected of foreign language assistants in order to support teachers and students effectively (including training on Child Protection). Delegates will be given a free copy of Herts for Learning’s ‘Good Practice Guide for FLAs in School’).  The FLA training will take place on Monday 17th October.  Please register your interest by emailing

New School Year Resolutions

Over the summer, you may have seen the BBC article ‘Foreign Languages Slump blamed on Cuts’.  To encourage your students to study a language at A Level (and beyond), you may consider the taster day at the University of Essex supported by the Association for Language Learning on Wednesday 16th November, where students will have the opportunity to sample languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Russian and see the first-hand workings of a university language department.  It is an after school event, completely free, and parents are welcome.

You can also sign up for emails from to access language events at other universities.

Like to learn a new language?

It’s not too late to join Future Learn’s beginners Spanish course in conjunction with the OU.  Module 2 starts on 12th September.  For more details, click here.


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