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Testing for primary pupils at 5 and ranking at 11 - what do you think?

(233 Posts)
SarahMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 17-Jul-13 10:26:40

The Deputy PM Nick Clegg has today unveiled a set of proposals around testing for primary school children.

Under the proposals, pupils aged 11 - who are already tested under the SATs - will be divided by their results into "ability bands" of 10%, and that information will be shared with parents, so that they can see how their children rank nationally.

Clegg also announced that he'll be launching a consultation on whether or not to bring in a "baseline" test at the start of the Reception year in order to establish where children are, and whether they need additional support.

However, teachers' unions have already raised objections to the proposals, with the leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, Russell Hobby, saying that "The vast majority of teachers are unhappy with the need to rank students."

What do you reckon? Does more testing - and more grading around the results - benefit children (and schools)? Or do we risk a return to the days of labelling children as successes and failures before they've hit their teens?

muminlondon Fri 19-Jul-13 21:11:04

If it's a weak school Ofsted will probably use the progress measure to downgrade it. The governors/LA should then have an action plan - unless it's forced to become an academy (for which there's no justification IMO). But I agree it's a bit crude. And the govt obviously wants to widen the progress measure to justify testing at 5 but that's even cruder and more unreliable.

PastSellByDate Sun 21-Jul-13 08:14:35

Hi muminlondon:

I think people are worried about the effect on the bottom 50%, maybe even those achieving 4b (the notional expected target end KS2) and learning that in fact that's not a stellar result. The reality is regardless of scores a rank system will naturally result in poor attainment - middle attainment - high attainment and there will be losers.

So again, I just wonder what is this meant to achieve. It seems to me by this proposal Clegg is saying that too large a proportion of Y7 pupils can't engage with senior school curriculum.

So isn't the solution to work out how to address this problem (and I don't underestimate that it is a huge problem as many very young children are coping with parents who abuse drugs/ alchohol; high mobility; EAL; poverty/ FSM; family breakdown; death in family; unemployment of parent(s); learning disabilities; etc....).

What I wonder is whether the solution needs to be

early identification of struggling students

early intervention to help them (remedial tuition in school/ homework help/ additional reading time/ etc...)


recognition that this all may be too much for a school to handle and do a good job by the other pupils.

Perhaps rather than spending tax payers money on another test/ another statistic gathering exercise - possibly the solution is developing a rescue plan for these pupils which supports them and their schools in turning poor performance around.

anitasmall Sun 21-Jul-13 13:13:07


You are right early identification and intervention/help are very important. If there are too many children entering secondary education that are unable to cope with the secondary education than they weren't identified and helped properly.

High/Mid/Low Achiever doesn't mean anything. In my daughter's class there are children who can add 10X more 1 and 2 digit numbers at the same time than the others. So 1 year before they write KS1 tests there is already an enormous gap and parents should really know about it.

RefuseToWorry Mon 22-Jul-13 19:58:11

Early identification and intervention support are crucial. However 'support' that simply seeks to bump a child up through the levels is not enough. Children who are struggling need plenty of opportunities to develop healthy attitudes to learning (eg building resilience and a growth mindset.)

I finished my job as a primary school teacher today. Initiatives like the idea to rank 11 year olds are the reason I had to escape the system (my resilience ran out, I'm sorry to say.)

Tiggles Tue 23-Jul-13 15:17:02

They did the ranking in Wales this year. I now know (based on the results of one test) where DS1 is compared to every other 11year old in Wales in numeracy and literacy. From next year I will get the results again (so I can check if he has stayed at the same ranking) and also for DS2 (who will go into year 2).
All children from year 2 to year 9 receive a standardised score where 100 is average, then there are cut offs for above average and exceptionally above average. Each child also receives the 'age' (like a reading age) they are working at.
Whilst I found it useful to know that the standardised scores DS1 received make his SATS results look probably correct (we don't have national tests, it is also teacher assessment) and I was concerned they had been inflated. I don't really put much faith into thinking that DS1 is a genius in literacy - he just had a good test on the day.
I have however met several children who are below average in maths/literacy who have now decided that they just can't do maths/literacy and that is that. They have also been making up scores for themselves to brag to their friends to make themselves sound better sad. (As in I overheard conversation between the children, whilst I was talking to their parents who were thinking they should bring in a tutor)

Elibean Thu 25-Jul-13 11:26:27

LMG sad awful to hear about the very children who probably need a confidence boost and support being depressed by the ranking instead. Awful, and predictable, really.

Its the lack of basic common sense, thinking through and care taken over these wretched policies that get to me.

Well done to your ds, though smile

allyfe Sun 28-Jul-13 21:40:48

It shocks me how obsessed we are, as a nation, with basically how intelligent our children are. It is so hard to rise above the national obsession with rankings and levels of achievement. We are told that if your child doesn't go to the right university, they won't get the right job. If they haven't gone to the right secondary school, they won't get to the right university. If they haven't done will enough at primary school, they won't get into the right secondary school (or, as parents, you haven't made enough money to either move into the right catchment area or pay for education). I know I am already desperate for my child to do well. I want her to work hard and succeed. But the biggest irony is that I never excelled at school. My ability wasn't recognised, but at primary school it didn't matter because my education was so creative and NOT based on rote /fact learning, but exploring and thinking. My secondary school was more fact based, and I didn't do so well. I didn't go to a top university. I went to a college of higher education. But I did my MSc at a good university, and my PhD at a good university. I now lecture in a moderate university. Everyone talks about standards dropping, but at the same time the parents of A-level students tell me how incredibly hard they work. But in my view, what has gone wrong is that our children are taught to learn, but not taught to think. So they work hard, they learn a lot, but they come in to University so shockingly unable to actually think. I think this obsession with learning but not thinking comes from the continuous testing, and obsession with levels. It is important that there are some standards, but the standards should reflect difference, both in the stages and ages at which children 'get' things, and the importance of self-lead learning. Lecture over. Sorry!

SheerWill Mon 29-Jul-13 10:14:12

I think our country's obsession with testing children is really very sad and very damaging for our children. We are always told that other countries such as Finland and Hungary get fantastic results, but they don't test their children formally until they reach 15/16 years old - when they are ready and independent enough for such a challenging experience.

Our children are forced into formal learning when they are not ready for it. They're forced to learn cursive handwriting before their fine motor skills are fully developed. Their opportunities to learn from play and explore from their environment are not catered for (for long enough) and class sizes for smaller children 3-7 are far too big to allow the summer-borns and quieter children time to develop their confidence and self-esteem, thus creating more barriers to learning.

GherkinsAreAce Mon 29-Jul-13 10:20:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

GherkinsAreAce Mon 29-Jul-13 10:21:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Mashabell Wed 31-Jul-13 14:05:33

Our children are forced into formal learning when they are not ready for it.

The problem is much bigger than that. Our children are forced to learn something which is much too difficult for 1 in 5 and very difficult for nearly half of all pupils: - to read and write English. As literacy is fundamental to other learning, this has many tragic consequences.

When u have a spelling system like the Finnish one, which makes learning to read and write very easy, because it never baffles children with phonic inconsistencies like 'paid - said' or 'on - only - once', or unpredictable spellings like 'speak - speech - teach - shriek...', u are in completely different ball park.

The only thing that would make a difference would be modernisation of English spelling, but that idea seems utterly insane to many. They much prefer the madness of pointless tests and putting children, parents and teachers under endless, needless pressure.

Masha Bell

mrz Wed 31-Jul-13 17:30:24

[yawn] why do you turn everything into your spelling reform crusade ... the fact is most children do learn to read and write and many more would if taught effectively.

Adding yet more levels of testing for primary age children serves no purpose other than creating data for the sake of it.

Mashabell Wed 31-Jul-13 19:30:35

I don't turn everything into a spelling reform crusade. I merely try to draw people's attention to the most fundamental educational problem which affects all English-speaking countries.

Even if taught very effectively, learning to read and write English takes much longer than with more regular spelling systems and is extremely difficult for some children. That does have serious consequences.

If the testing of 5 yr olds resulted in giving more help to those who need it, there would be a point to it. Apart from that, I agree with u about it serving no purpose.

mrz Wed 31-Jul-13 19:35:24

but it isn't the problem you try to claim masha ... millions of children have no problem learning to read even with our complex language - the testing is to measure progress and identify the most able at age 11

Ocelotl Mon 05-Aug-13 11:19:46

This approach to education is the equivalent of opening the oven door every five minutes to check if the cake has risen - utterly counterproductive.

The only people to profit will be the tutoring industry, who'll be have paranoid pressure-cooker mums signing up their children at age 4 so they are spared the blushes of seeing them thrown on the "bottom 10%" scrapheap aged 5.

ukjess Mon 05-Aug-13 14:51:03

I think the idea is noble enough.
I can see it would have some uses.

But overall I think the cons outweigh the pros.

anitasmall Mon 05-Aug-13 19:26:50


Yes, the Finnish and Hungarian spelling is very easy but both countries do very well at many other subjects, too (maths, science, foreign languages).
There are other high achieving countries that use complicated reading-writing system(s) (not just one writing but one for every day and one posh): Chinese, Japanese... It is hard to read and to form their letters however their education system is very advanced, top ranked. In addition Far East children also start too early and spend much longer hours at school...

So you can't just blame the spelling system, the age of the Reception class children...

ProbablyJustGas Wed 07-Aug-13 10:24:32

Doesn't it become obvious to teachers very quickly which of their students need more support? confused

I think slotting 11 year-olds into "ability bands" will just encourage the adults in charge to pigeonhole them. Why would a parent or teacher continue the hard work of helping a child learn to write a fluent essay or understand some mathematics beyond arithmetic - why even reach for that target - if a test just labels him as "40% ability" anyway? Even if that's not the intent of the test, I reckon that would be the result.

Testing once at 5 and once at 11 would also assume that a child's needs for support in school are static - it assumes that they never change. However, from my own (very anecdotal) experience, that isn't the case at all. One of the studies highlighted in Nuture Shock - the one discussing the merits of Gifted & Talented Kindergarten - argues the same.

busychad Sat 10-Aug-13 14:49:30

All children are tested and given a 'baseline' when the start reception - to identify if they are making progress.

This is nothing new.

mrz Sun 11-Aug-13 20:45:01

Not all schools use baseline assessment in reception and I don't know any that test.

babasheep Mon 12-Aug-13 23:48:03

How many more times do any governments of any parties in the past and present have to tell our children and parents and teachers we are never good enough and now officially starts from the age of 5?! When will any government simplify any state systems rather than put another layer of complication and say these are reforms. Why start ranking at 11? Why don't start as soon as they are born just based on their parents' cvs and incomes and birth places? Why don't they give more supports to parents and schools so that we are better position to take of our children's development mentally, physically and academically? JOKE

Fraxinus Sat 31-Aug-13 22:45:57

Well there is very little positive said on this thread about the extra testing and ranking.

I'm not saying anything new, but I agree that all it does it put extra pressure on teachers, schools children and parents.

Is that what we need? Is extra stress and pressure going to help our children achieve more? Why doesn't nick clegg ask himself these questions? I'm sure he knows the answers!

sarahmumsnet what's the next step, you have got a lot of opinions on here. Will you be doing any campaigning?

Mashabell Sun 08-Sep-13 07:55:59

^ Finnish and Hungarian spelling is very easy but both countries do very well at many other subjects, too (maths, science, foreign languages).^

When children can become fluent readers in 3 months and pretty accurate spellers of nearly all common words in a year (instead of 3 years and 10 years in English), this has enormous educational benefits all round.
Not only is there much less need to hear children read aloud and to monitor their progress in reading and writing, or those endless exercises which help to imprint the 4,000 common words with quirky spellings on children's minds, or spelling tests, or parents and teachers endlessly having to answer the question 'how do u spell....?', children get much earlier access to independent learning of subjects like maths and science, apart from having more time for them.

There is also a far more relaxed attitude to all learning, because there is much less fear of falling behind and of failure. When I was first came to England as an au-pair back in 1964 I was horrified how worries about learning to read and write crept into everything for the three boys I helped to look after. It felt like I had been plunged into some crazy hot house which was completely different from what I experienced first in Lithuania and then in Germany. People from Scandinavia tend to notice this difference even more.

A spelling system which makes learning to read and write difficult and very time-consuming affects the whole of education. Even at university, spelling continues to problematic for many students. This is entirely because of the irregularities of English spelling. They have a multitude of knock-on effects.

Bonsoir Wed 11-Sep-13 08:52:27

I think this odious. Horrific. What's next? Gassing the bottom 20%?

Bonsoir Wed 11-Sep-13 09:33:33

Another thing: my DD's school ( in France), streams in the first year of primary. Parents go to inordinate lengths to get their DC in the "top" class. We are now four years down the line and there is no correlation at all between the DC who were in that top class and the high performers now.

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