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Readers in KS2 SATs tests - unfair advantage?

(80 Posts)
KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 04-May-12 14:33:26

The SENCO told me that DS was to have a reader in the maths test paper. I was not aware of the criteria. Having found out the criteria and recieving standardised tests from the school I found out that there is no significant discrepency between RA and CA on sentence reading tests - on a bad day he is less than a year behind and on a good day can even be a couple of months above his chronological age. He is able to read all the questions himself. He has never recieved help or support with reading in the classroom although he frequently requires a prompt. The school is unwilling to accept that he does not start or complete tasks independently to such an extent that a prompt is necessary.

I told the SENCO that DS did not qualify for a reader and that it was bad for his sense of himself as a learner to insist upon his receiving support that he did not need and did not want - a bit like insisting that he had stabilisers on his bike. I was surprised to learn that DS was not the only member of the class of around 16 (in a small, rural, m/c primary school) earmarked to receive support but that around 8 children would have readers and that a significant number of these did not meet the criteria either (reading age below 9, on action or action+, evidence of requiring reader in class etc) but that readers were able to help them in other ways! Am I being horribly naive but this strikes me as a tad illegal?

What should I do - tell other parents of the 'unfair advantage' (as the mother of 2 children with SEN this may seem rather odd but in my experience enabling DS to do his best in the SATs by having a prompt disguised as a reader who is able to help test results match teacher assessment will actually prevent us from getting his needs met at secondary level for many years to come by making it appear that he can work independently) complain to the BoG, report them to the LEA etc?

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 04-May-12 14:40:40

I forgot to say - I encountered extreme resistence to DS not having a reader - in the end the SENCo rather moodily suggested that we ask DS whether or not he wants a reader - I was not aware it was his choice to make! DS insisted that he did not want a reader and this has been passed on the SENCO but they may well have had the thumbscrews out today. I wonder why it is so important to them?

IndigoBell Fri 04-May-12 15:36:34

Oooooh. This makes me so mad.

Like you say, it is absolutely not in your DSs best interests to have a reader.

If it were me,(and it might well be) I would honestly keep him home from school during SATs week unless they guaranteed that he would not have a reader. Then at least he won't get an inflated grade.

Complain in writing to the govs and the LEA - if you're absolutely sure the other children don't meet the criteria.

But I'd be more concerned about my own child not having a reader, then about complaining.

(I don't think complaining, especially to the LEA, ever solves anything)

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 04-May-12 16:19:16

I don't think that complaining will solve anything but the new head who is also the SENCO wants very much to improve last years SATs results (rumoured to have been instrumental in the previous head's leaving) and seems to me to be using rather underhand techniques to demonstrate improvement. As the parent of a child on whom a reader was to be forced at the school's discretion despite not meeting criteria I believe that there is sufficient evidence in this case alone that the access arrangements were being used inappropriately. But ... DH thinks I am an idealist and in the real world no-one really cares about bending the rules in this way - that the BoG and the LEA would share a bureaucratic 'immoral' viewpoint as would most of the parents who want their child's school to improve SATs results. Please tell me that he is a cynic!

EllenJaneisnotmyname Fri 04-May-12 17:07:57

Gosh, he wouldn't get a reader at my school. I will be reading in maths for the DC with a statement that I support, and 3 other DC who are on SA or SA+ with a reading age under 9 will also have readers. So that's 4 out of a year group of 60. We are not a high league table school, but do get around 80% level 4 or above in maths and English.

For the DC I support, my role is more to keep him focused and on task than because he can't read. He has real trouble working independently but his maths ability is pretty average. Without constant prompting he wouldn't get more than a couple of questions answered. Reading the questions to him and sitting with him keeps him on task. This is similar but perhaps more intense to the role I have in the classroom, where I have to constantly prompt, but try to withdraw between prompts to help his independence.

Feenie Fri 04-May-12 17:21:37

I would report them to the LEA, who will ensure they receive a visit. To qualify for a reader, each child must be used to receiving this kind of reading help on a day to day basis in the classroom. If every question is to be read to the child, they must do the test in a separate room (and a prompter also has to prompt the child in a separate room. I very much doubt that there are 8 separate rooms/readers for all these children! They are breaking the rules.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 04-May-12 18:04:52

I would be happy about DS receiving both reading and prompting to enable him to answer more than a couple of questions if he had been assessed and had a statement. Unfortunatley, SATs with a reader (who doesn't declare the extent of prompting or goes beyond reading) hides his significant problems with working independently and can be interpreted by the LEA as further evidence that he does not require assessment (they have already refused once and I am awaiting the outcome of the second application).

How on earth did the DC with a statement but who has pretty average maths ability get a statement?

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 04-May-12 18:09:07

Feenie - would you suggest that I write to the head/senco with a blind copy to the LEA or direct to the LEA?

Can I remain anonymous - I am worried about backlash to DS1 & DS2?

Feenie Fri 04-May-12 18:16:56

You can speak to the LEA and remain anonymous - they will send someone in, and the school will not know if anyone has dobbed them in reported them. They will just assume they are one of the 10% being moderated that year. I would phone them.

EllenJaneisnotmyname Fri 04-May-12 18:18:39

Keepingon, my DS2 is in top set for Maths at secondary. He has 20 hours on his statement. Having SNs doesn't have to mean low ability, you know.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 04-May-12 18:24:08

Ellen sorry if I sounded surprised - DS has fallen foul of the LEA attainment criteria (ie bottom 2%, 5 years behind, lower than level 1b at age 11) - yes I know it is illegal but the bastards tinkers do keep trotting it out.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 04-May-12 18:50:08

Feenie many thanks - I am dusting off my whistle as I type.

EllenJaneisnotmyname Fri 04-May-12 20:49:04

That's OK, Keepon. smile It's bollocks that you need to be in the bottom 2% to get a statement. What's true is that only 2% of DC have statements, but that is supposed to be due to need. Have you managed to have a look at the SEN COP which gives the current guidance to schools and LAs? Anything that says 'must' is law. It is still current despite the Green Paper on SEN provision. It states that one of the reasons to bet a statement is a child making inadequate progress with current provision. Not 5 years behind! How on earth could my 5 yo have got a statement, how can 3 yos get statements?

Sorry, rant over! blush

Some LAs are completely awful, unfortunately.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 04-May-12 21:43:51

Ellen I know, I know - DS has been working at the same level for 4 years but is not yet 'bad enough' to qualify for assessment! Nobody has done the analysis to demonstrate obvious regression from the mean and assessed benchmark ability. Both SENCO and LEA EP asserted that he was not dyslexic as he could read and write (!) a week before an independent EP diagnosed dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia to add to the known auditory processing difficulties, low working memory etc. The EP gazes at me sympathatically as she shows me the little charts that demonstrate that DS does not even qualify for support at Action+ level (which they deliver out of the goodness of their hearts - bless).

CardyMow Sun 06-May-12 09:00:59

KeepOn - with tose criteria, it sounds like you arer under Essex LEA. Unless there's another LEA that uses the same, illegal criteria for assessing statements...

I had the same issues with my DD, but to the point where the primary school were LYING about the levels she was acheiving under the NC. It wasn't until she started (a very well researched, well picked) Secondary school that her needs were addressed.

She started Y7 working BELOW level 1. She is now in Y9 - and is sitting traditional GCSE's, and is expected to acheive C/D grades in most, if not all.

She still doesn't have a statement, mind you - even the Secondary have tried and failed to get her one - but they are giving my DD the level of SEN support that she would be getting if she had a statement regardless.

And the EP is talking bollocks. If your DS has ANY involvement from outside the school - ENT / Physio / OT / Developmental Paed / any other consultant - then the school HAS to put him on SA+ and give him that level of support. They try to wriggle out of it, but that is what SHOULD happen.

(I am currently fighting the primary school again on behalf of my DS2, who DOES have outside involvement from ENT, Audiology, Physiotherapy, OT AND a developmental Paed, but they have dropped him from SA+ to SA despite the outside involvment. Crap school, no option to change as his year is full except for In-year Fair Access Protocol for 30 miles, large birth year, Grrrrr.)

adelaofblois Sun 06-May-12 16:11:03

I don't know all the circumstances but can sort of see the school's point because:

a. It is a maths test. If there is any possibility that your son may be thrown or have difficulty with the reading, then this affects judgments of his maths ability adversely and unfairly. A child unable to read any of the questions, but able to answer them all (and I've met one such EAL child) is a Level 5+ mathematician who would score 0 unaided. Similarly a child who struggles to work independently but can answer many questions needs a push. It is 'inflating', but it is a test of mathematical ability not a test of the ability to do the maths test (if that makes sense)

b. Any reading issues and inabilities to work independently will be flagged by the Reading test and by his teachers' assessments. He cannot have a reader for these.

c. To be honest, secondary schools don't give a stuff about SATs results, nor do EPs. Getting a good score in maths isn't going to hinder assessment of other needs.

Yeah, the school is being self-serving (and all schools would deploy as many readers as possible if they could) BUT it will result in a more honest reflection of your kid's abilities in maths. Like one poster above, I can't really see why you would complain-he is not going to learn dependency because of having a reader for SATs tests and practice tests, unless this is all the school does.

mrz Sun 06-May-12 16:46:59

In my area secondary schools use SAT levels for class placement and EPs ask for NC levels including SAT years

adelaofblois Sun 06-May-12 17:33:56

That's interesting. Round here, transition officers say they use SATs results to place for a couple of weeks, run their own tests, then formalise groups. And talking to parents they don't seem to be talking bollocks, there is a routine secondary group redistribution around October half term.

Likewise EPs want levels, but also more information. I wouldn't report a child as regularly working at Level 5 in maths to an EP if he or she needed a reader. I would report both-they are an able mathematician with a reading problem. If the issue was ability to work independently, surely the EP would ask whether a reader was used?

Not being stuffy here, and perhaps I am naive, but personally, given they have to sit the damn things, I'd rather send my kids into a test knowing it will test what it is supposed to-maths-rather than send them in with a load of other complications.

IndigoBell Sun 06-May-12 17:38:56

adela - I think you're naive.

This child clearly has a lot of problems (no progress in 4 years). The last thing that will help him is him getting an inflated grade in his SATs.

If you child doesn't have problems, then maybe it's no big deal.

But if your child does have SEN, especially if he needs a statement, then it's really not in his favour to get inflated grades.

And these grades could be vastly inflated. We have no idea how much help the TA will actually give him in the test.

You say it should only test his maths ability. But it's not that simple. Say his maths is a level 5 - but only with a TA working with him 1:1, and he doesn't have a TA. Then he won't survive in a level 5 stream will he.......

And it won't help his statement request for his grades to be what he can achieve with a TA, when he doesn't have a TA.

mrz Sun 06-May-12 17:39:55

Here children are placed for the first year based on SAT results.

If a child had inflated test results achieved with a reader indicating they were roughly in line with age expectations I wouldn't even get an EP agreeing to visit.

cece Sun 06-May-12 17:41:52

Any child can ask for questions to be read to them during the SATs tests in Year 6. In fact we positively encourage our children to be read the questions. Obviously this is not the case in the reading test! We aren't allowed to read any of those - LOL!

mrz Sun 06-May-12 17:46:27

Use of a reader
How to apply: No application or notification form is needed.

Who is it for: If a child already has reading support in the classroom.

Readers must be used on a one-to-one basis and must not be another child at the
school, or relative, carer or guardian of the child.

No part of the reading test or the child’s responses to the reading test may be read to a child, other than the general instructions.

adelaofblois Sun 06-May-12 18:00:13

My point is that the rules on who needs a reader are specific-they are for children who normally need reading support in the classroom (mrz has restated them). For some SEN issues they may also need a prompter-a different role. For a some kids the two are legitimately combined.

What readers and prompters can and can't do is rigidly limited. It is illegal to provide too much help (Feenie's point above).

So, if your child qualifies and the help is legal, their is potentially some inflation above what might be expected in a 'normal' classroom, and a lot above what you'd otherwise expect in the test. Not having a reader, on the other hand, results in a deflation against normal classroom experience-because support is not being used.

Now, I can understand why the OP is worried about the school using help illegally to inflate grades, and I can see why she wants her son's maths assessment to be low to secure an assessment, but if the school feels he is entitled to a reader and can justify that then that is his maths level.

adelaofblois Sun 06-May-12 18:01:24

there not their. Bugger.

mrz Sun 06-May-12 18:13:27

Indigo's daughter had a reader for the reading test as well as for the maths test hmm

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