An interesting trend with NC L5 at KS2 SATs

(54 Posts)
PastSellByDate Fri 02-May-14 10:29:28

Hello all:

My fondness of numbers/ statistics has lead me to consider some interesting tables the Guardian published regarding this past December's announcement of 2013 (May 2013 cohort) KS2 SATs results:

The article is an interesting read - but scroll down to the tables of overall results in England between 1997 - 2013 for English & Maths and there is a rather interesting trend:

English: 1997 20% achieve NC L5 and this steadily climbs until 2007 48% achieve NC L5 - and it stays in this general approaching 50% ball park until 2013 (48% that year).

Maths: 1995 - 13% attained NC L5 and this climbs to 31% in 2005 and then on up to 41% in 2013.


I'm sure there isn't a simple explanation - but if basically 50% of all English pupils are attaining NC L5 in English & 40% are attaining NC L5 in Maths - and there isn't a watering down of standards (which as a parent I can't really determine) - does this mean that NC L4 needs to be presented to parents as the minimum a child should achieve?

I just wonder if our school had been aiming for NC L5 rather than scraping NC L4 - if this entire process of preparing for KS 2 SATs would have been less stressful for the school (? less stressful for parents having to deal with kids suddenly getting endless photocopies of KS2 SATs busters books for homework after years of no homework at all/ and endlessly taking past KS2 papers for 'practise').

Our school seems to have thrown everything at DD1's Year 6 cohort in one last ditch effort to get >65% to NC L4+ in Maths/ English and I can't help but wonder if the pace of the curriculum and the standard of content hadn't been slightly higher if everybody wouldn't have had a more pleasant Year 6.

TeenAndTween Fri 02-May-14 10:53:04

I can't help but wonder if the pace of the curriculum and the standard of content hadn't been slightly higher if everybody wouldn't have had a more pleasant Year 6.

I agree that a good pace of teaching throughout juniors should mean it is not necessary to go OTT in y6.

ReallyTired Fri 02-May-14 11:07:03

I think that SATs results have improved as teachers have got better at teaching to the test.

Schools are expected to have better tracking systems. I agree with you the approach of throwing everything at year 6 is wrong. Schools are now expected to have decent systems for tracking progress.

MumTryingHerBest Fri 02-May-14 12:19:57

I think that, it is important to remember what SATs are there for. In my mind, and I appreciate that others will have a very different opinion on this, SATs are a measurement tool designed by the government in way of "claiming" they are making the educational system better and fairer.

The claim "making the system better" is based on helping as many children as possible achieve an acceptable level of education to put them in good stead for future academic progression or employment i.e. L2 in yr2 and L4 in yr6. For example, comparing the 1997 figure to the 2013 figure, it would seem educational standards have got better, yes? (not my opinion BTW)

The claim "making the system fairer", or it would seem to me at least, has resulted in little interest in demonstrating how many children can exceed these minimum levels as getting every child on the same level could be perceived as providing each of these children an equal opportunity in academic achievement or employment in the future i.e. making the system fairer.

Unfortunately, many people are driven by the top line statistics rather than the factors and influences that these figures are derived from, as highlighted by ReallyTired.

It will be interesting to see how things pan out in the next 2-6 years, given the imminent changes being made to SATs.

mummytime Fri 02-May-14 12:30:56

When the SATS were introduced L4 was set as the average standard that pupils were expected to reach. And average even in government speak meant: 50% better and 50% lower. They seem to have been exceeding this by 1997.
Government has since changed the meaning of "average" to mean everyone except a few with SEN. Around here that new meaning was moved towards more quickly than most places (90%+ has been school targets for quite some time).
Level 5 has moved from being a level for the brightest to being a level for 50% or more (which was why level 6 tests were introduced).
It is also why parents frequently panic in September when their children suddenly drop levels.
It could also be why they are totally overhauling the whole system, to call grades something else.

AmberTheCat Fri 02-May-14 12:48:29

I think L4 is seen as the minimum standard to which schools should aspire for most children, rather than an average (which, as your figures show, is not the case).

What I like about the proposals for the revised SATs is that schools will be judged on either the percentage of children who achieve the minimum standard (which is being raised to 85% achieving the equivalent to a current L4b) OR the number of children making sufficient progress from their starting point (the measure for this is currently still woolly). It's not perfect, but it a) recognises that some schools have much more challenging intakes than others, and b) incentivises schools to help all children to make as much progress as possible, rather than focusing on getting children over an arbitrary line.

PastSellByDate Fri 02-May-14 13:13:55

Thanks all - very interesting perspectives (from some teachers I suspect).

Amber - hadn't heard about the forthcoming changes to KS2 SATs - but like what you have suggested may be happening.

AmberTheCat Fri 02-May-14 14:21:53
PastSellByDate Fri 02-May-14 14:50:35

Thanks Amber - you know me too well - I'm the nutty parent who actually will read this with interest.

But then again I was the mad woman arguing with the HT & Deputy HT that division should be taught in primary school and being told my expectations who too high.

I know the saying is Parents mess you up. But genuinely I think poor primary education does a lot more damage.

PastSellByDate Fri 02-May-14 14:51:34

sorry who to high should have been

were too high.

mrz Fri 02-May-14 17:30:46

When the KS2 tests were introduced in 1995 many children in my local school achieved level 6 and then a few years later level 6 tests were abandonded only to be reintroduced in 2012 ... full circle

mummytime Fri 02-May-14 17:49:37

Division is taught in infant schools, well in my experience. Or did you mean long division? That is taught in primary (and year 2 I remember) of course by the "bus stop" method.

I argue for more loops in handwriting - and have been told how old fashioned I am, despite how other places teach writing.

Feenie Fri 02-May-14 19:38:30
PiqueABoo Fri 02-May-14 19:56:24

What AmberTheCat said. Any L4 was the floor standard but now it's L4b, shortly to become some scaled score in the test formerly known with astonishing stupidity as 'Secondary Readiness' in the assessment & accountability consultation.

The 85% is interesting. Look at a normal distribution, a bell curve, and that line is roughly one standard deviation to the left of mean. For all the talk of criterion referencing, that is difficult to ignore and it looks a teensy bit like norm referencing.

Similarly, I'm no expert but get the impression there are some stories that could be told about the errm.. not necessarily exact but politically convenient relationship between the defined NC levels and what SATs report.

spanieleyes Fri 02-May-14 20:39:04

Schools are already measured on the progress all children make from their starting point, the percentage reaching 4b is only ONE of a raft of targets schools have to reach to try to keep OFSTED happy
Raiseonline currently measures and schools are judged on:
percentage achieving level 4
percentage achieving level 4b
percentage achieving level 5
percentage achieving level 6
percentage making 12 points progress
percentage making 14 points progress
percentage making 16 points progress
( for Reading, writing, maths and SPAG in each case)
percentage of FSM and Ever6 children achieving the same, and
percentage of EAL children achieving the same, and
percentage of SEN children achieving the same

and a host of other measures too!

Schools have to be "above average" in all these measures just to keep the wolves from the door

HolidayCriminal Fri 02-May-14 20:42:49

I can't figure out what OP is asking.
but Thanks for making me feel bad that DS will only be 4b in English at end of y6. Cheers.

PastSellByDate Sat 03-May-14 03:31:01

My apologies Holiday

My post was not intended to make anyone feel bad.

At our school for the last 3 years the trend has been 30 - 35% NC L3 and 65% - 70% NC L4+. NC L5+ has never exceeded 12% at the school.

4b is a good result - it is the national target for primary pupils. I also think individual context is everything - for you and your DC this may be a huge achievement - and that also has to be considered (which is why I think attaining expected/ above expected progress figure is important).

The recent changes in KS2 performance tables ( mean it is now possible for parents to see what % scored NC L4+ (so 4c+) and what percentage scored NC L4b+. Our school has 40%-45% students failing to achieve NC L4b.

So my question was in a context where our school have always stated the aim is to get pupils to NC L4/ "we only teach to NC L4" is the mantra (I'm not the only parent to be told that when I ask about why x or y doesn't seem to have been taught - you know daring things like long multplication/ divison, percentage/ proportion or mean/ mode/ median).

My post was just wondering out loud would these results have been better at our school if staff were aiming to get a significant proportion of the cohort to NC L5 and including that level of work in the curriculum?

With 30 - 40% of students failing to achieve NC L4 at our school - trust me all of those parents would be thrilled with your child's 4b result HolidayCriminal.

spanieleyes Sat 03-May-14 07:36:20

Your school is clearly run by idiots! Our aim is to get children as far as they can go but this is an individual target it's up to us to ensure that each child makes the progress they can , not as a whole cohort . so for one child this might mean achieving a 4 b but for another it would be a 5 or a 6. Achieving a level four has always been only one measure against which schools are assessed,clearly your school had no idea!

mummytime Sat 03-May-14 09:22:38

I think it is your school that has the problem. Is it just your school locally, or does this explain regional differences? I can't imagine that all children in somewhere like Surrey are brighter than elsewhere.
These are the SATs results for one local school with a very challenging intake.

spanish11 Sat 03-May-14 09:58:05

My son is in year 7 ( top group, he is a level 6), this week he has been learning how to multiply decimals ( in my country I learned this in year 3, in year 7 I was doing equations).

mrz Sat 03-May-14 10:20:29

Equations are level 5

Meglet Sat 03-May-14 10:27:09

DS is in Y2 and he's being taught division. I think his school are aiming for L6 for some of the year 6's (or 4th year junior as my old brain always thinks of it).

TheGruffalo2 Sat 03-May-14 10:36:32

Surely all schools get set targets, like ours, of level and progress. We hit above "national expectations" every year. I'm more concerned tracking % making "expected progress", "better than expected progress" and most importantly "not making expected progress" as that is what I have to discuss with governors and OFSTED.

spanish11 Sat 03-May-14 12:10:16

By ecuations I mean x+y= 10 and 2x+ 7=13

mrz Sat 03-May-14 13:02:56

So was I spanish examples of Level 5 equations are

x + 4 = 7

4/x = 6

x – 9 = 34
8x = 56
3x = 5

x+ 14 = 9
5x+ 3 <10

4x + x + 8 = x + 8 + 3

Retropear Sat 03-May-14 15:27:06

Yes re equations my year 5 ds's have done all that.

spanish11 Sat 03-May-14 16:24:47

My dd is in year 4 and she is learning percentages, the problem is that she is not very confident with short division. I will like the school will teach her more numeracy, and then fractions, percentages and decimals will come along.

mummytime Sat 03-May-14 17:00:51

Umm maybe you are confused because the English curriculum repeats things, so they may do multiplying decibels in year 3 but they will repeat this in years 4,5,6,7 each time getting a bit harder.
My DC started the background to equations in year 2, using a box instead of x, what number should be in the box. By the time they do equations with x they should be able to do it, just need to get used to the new way of writing them.

spanish11 Sat 03-May-14 18:54:33

Can you give examples of how multiplying decimals can become harder.

TeenAndTween Sat 03-May-14 19:10:12

multiplying decimals becoming harder (I guess)

2 x 4.5

3 x 3.7

3.1 x 2.7

0.13 x 0.0123

mrz Sat 03-May-14 19:59:59

Level 4 would begin multiplying simple decomal by a single digit
Level 5 would use all 4 operations with decimals to 2 decimal places

spanish11 Sat 03-May-14 20:40:19

Ok, in my primary school I learnt this way. Remove the decimal, for example, 0.13*0.0123 I will do 13*123= 1599 and then divide this number by 100.000= 0.001599.
I multiplied 0.13 by 100 y 0.0123 by a 10.000 the 100*10000= 100000.
in my school they told me that if a multiply a number with 2 decimal with a number with 3 decimal my result will be a number with 5 decimal (2+3).

mrz Sat 03-May-14 20:55:08


Multiply normally, ignoring the decimal points
Then just count up how many numbers are after the decimal point in both numbers you are multiplying, then the answer should have that many numbers after its decimal point.

BravePotato Mon 12-May-14 14:33:15

interesting thread.

I don't feel bad that my son will "only" get a 4b (probably) with all those level 5s and 6s. For him, that is 3 sub levels higher than predicted based on y2 SATs.

It does make me realise though that I may have been a bit complacent with his maths. He is apparently a comfortable level 5 and I have not pushed for level 6 test (as some parents did), as I did not see the point.

Now I can see why one might want to.

I like MN for getting alternative views, though the sheer number of kids on MN doing level 6 is a bit intimidating!

PastSellByDate Mon 12-May-14 15:01:36

First off thanks all for interesting comments.


I can only judged by our school but 3 years ago a parent virtually had to threaten legal action to allow her son to sit a Level 6 paper. The school didn't want him to because basically he'd spent all of Year 6 supporting other students and they had no work to demonstrate they had been working with him at this level - I suspect.

Last year 2 students were put forward.

This year I know that 15 students were selected out of the main class for extension lessons and 'all were told if they worked hard, they could achieve NC L6'.

Not sure if all will be sitting the Level 6 test - but my impression is the school is far less concerned about repercussions of pupils failing L6 paper and prefer to encourage students to go for it.

I think my DD1 has a chance with maths but am slightly dubious about Reading/ SPAG at Level 6. But very flattering she is going for this - although I won't know for sure until I hear she has actually sat 2 papers today (or indeed Tues & Thursday).


Feenie Mon 12-May-14 17:44:10

Level 6 papers didn't exist three years ago. Your friend's ds could have been teacher assessed at level 6 - that never went away. Level papers disappeared in 2002 and reappeared in 2012.

ipadquietly Mon 12-May-14 17:50:49

Last year the threshold for level 5 was made 2 or 3 marks higher than the year before. If thresholds are moveable, the statistics become pretty meaningless.

PastSellByDate Mon 12-May-14 18:38:07

Hi Feenie:

I am indeed talking about 2012 cohort (she applied for all this/ began campaign in 2011 - hence my thinking 3 years ago - also thinking about this as 3 school years ago - i.e. this played out whilst DD1 was in year 4, which is 3 school cohorts ago.).

Very interesting point - How do they come up with thresholds? Are these generated as a result of marking (so a normal curve is applied to the scores?) Or are these decided in advance?

No idea myself - but hopefully someone will be along soon.

Feenie Mon 12-May-14 18:50:47

They are generated after papers are completed and vary according to who has an election year coming up/has just come into power/has a point to prove, etc.

Fairly sickening.

spanieleyes Mon 12-May-14 19:23:51

The 2011 level threshold for L6 in maths was 25 out of 50, the next year it was 34!

Feenie Mon 12-May-14 20:21:27

Yes, that was the sample, wasn't it? Reading was similarly nuts, as I recall.

spanieleyes Mon 12-May-14 20:36:13

Yes, 13 in the trial, 19 the following year and 22 the next!

PiqueABoo Mon 12-May-14 21:17:16

Can't say I'm impressed by the apparently political nature of the thresholds. I can' think of an obvious reason why they couldn't pitch successive L6 maths papers at the same difficulty level, at worst +/-1 mark from year to year. Was it a (futile) attempt to get secondary to take it more seriously?

PiqueABoo Mon 12-May-14 21:18:03

can' think => can't think

mrz Mon 12-May-14 21:22:44

The explanation given is that the threshold reflects slight variations in difficulty (25-34 slight?)

pointythings Tue 13-May-14 10:07:09

Whereas the real explanation is that the powers that be want the state sector to be seen to fail...
Honestly, if the people setting these tests are incapable of creating tests of equivalent difficulty year on year with only minor statistical variations then they should be sacked.

ipadquietly Tue 13-May-14 17:27:21

As in the Y1 phonics test this year. They're keeping the pass mark secret until the 30th June. Cue manipulation of results.

I wonder why we're all so cynical. hmm

pointythings Tue 13-May-14 21:33:59

I know why I'm cynical - 2012 English GCSEs, anyone? If they're grading on a curve, they need to be open about it.

AmberTheCat Tue 13-May-14 21:50:42

Far be it from me to defend the DfE, but there are good reasons for not publishing the pass mark for the phonics test in advance. Have a look at the distribution curve here:

pointythings Tue 13-May-14 22:04:47

Amber that does look scary... Any similar data for KS2 SATs?

AmberTheCat Tue 13-May-14 22:16:40

Not that I know of, but then they're largely externally marked. I'm a fan of teacher assessment, but, given the pressure schools are under to achieve results, I can completely understand the temptation to give children the benefit of the doubt when a pass mark or grade boundary is known, which I think is what that graph reveals.

ipadquietly Tue 13-May-14 22:30:52

I'm not sure this is meant to be a normal distribution.
Children are expected to know ALL the sounds in the phonics test by the end of Y1, having had two years of phonics training. Surely, that expectation, and the fact that many children have good phonic knowledge by the end of Y1, would surely skew results to the +30 end.

Wouldn't it?

AmberTheCat Tue 13-May-14 22:39:33

The results should be skewed towards the upper end if children have good phonic knowledge, but it should still be a normal bell curve shape. The massive jump on this graph at the pass mark, and the fact that it actually goes down on the number before the pass mark, is so pronounced that it's hard to see any other explanation than teachers giving kids who were nearly there the benefit of the doubt, whether consciously or subconsciously.

As I say, completely understandable, but given that different teachers will respond to the pressure to have as many children pass in different ways, I think it makes sense not to publicise the pass mark until afterwards.

PiqueABoo Tue 13-May-14 22:46:58

I once got Excel to make some graphs out of RaiseOnline library (no logon required, anyone can go get that) KS2-KS4 transition data which had KS2 sub-level granularity, however it was KS2 data for the cohort who had just done their GCSEs so not exactly current. Their lastest KS1-KS2 transition data didn't have the sub-level granularity, just whole levels at KS2.

At KS2 it was normal distributions but with some significant distortion around 4c and 5c i.e. suggested 'boosting' to those levels. The top end was also clearly 'clipped' at 5a i.e. some of those children could have been more 'stretched'. GCSE grade graphs were much the same but the distortion was obviously for grade C.

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