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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?

adelaofblois Sun 06-May-12 18:19:08

And that is illegal.

If the OP thinks her son doesn't qualify, then anonymously report her concerns to the LA. If Indigo thinks her daughter has had a reader for the reading test, likewise (although she'd be in the interesting position of potentially launching a malpractice suit against a school she is a governor of).

But to suggest that a child should be deprived of a reader they are entitled to in order to keep results at a level for assessment? I genuinely really see the point, and don't know what I'd do with my child, but I wouldn't pretend the un-read-for score was any more 'real' than the read-for one.

IndigoBell Sun 06-May-12 21:37:40

My case is different. It wasn't the Y6 SATs, so school can do what they want for optional SATs.

Adela - if you can see my point, then I can see yours smile

I do think that getting a 4 or 5 in SATs implies you can cope with secondary school maths. And if you can't, then it's not in the child's best interest to get a 4.

I think my concern with a reader in the OPs case is an issue with trusting the school. I'm not sure if I would trust them to use the reader legally.

If I trusted the school then I might allow a reader. But if I didn't, then no way.

But of course, parents get no control over whether or not their child has a reader. So the only way you can guarantee your child doesn't have a reader is to keep them home.

It's really, really sad that not everyone can trust their school. But some schools do cheat. And it's naive to pretend it never happens.

Feenie Sun 06-May-12 21:40:36

There are several cases of malpractice every year - and many sackings because of it.

adelaofblois Mon 07-May-12 14:35:20

Thank you Indigo.

Since Christmas I've been working been with Yr6 SA, SA+ and statemented kids, for whom getting a Level 3 was deemed a major achievement. Some are now, because of this level of targeted intervention, on track for Level 4s, especially in Maths.

Like Indigo, I have been very shocked by the level of disguised achievement and learned dependency I've encountered. The groups I've taught have actually had a lower than usual staff ratio for these kids, and they really struggled. Year 6 pupils should expect to read for themselves and to complete a task without being fed. There has clearly been a great deal of poor learning lower down the school. The sorts of subterfuge Indigo has talked about seem all too common, as do the pressures on teachers to advance kids rapidly through the curriculum before they have basic learning skills in place.

In the OP's case, I think the school may be able to make a case: the child is likely to have received routine classroom support (a prompter at least would seem helpful?) and on some tests may meet the reading criteria. Yet I find the levels from the school shocking and do think they are playing the system.

I also think the problems of high performance meaning less help at secondary are exaggerated. I've been involved with secondary school SENCOs and transition officers. We've been filling in forms, having meetings, arranging handovers as well as we can for children who are necessarily going to really struggle in a bigger school without a personal support assistant and with larger organisational demands. Those forms are very clear about support given in SATs, there is room for 'usual classwork' and all kinds of oral feedback. It may all be timewasting crap, but I don't get the sense if these kids do get a L4 they are going to be deemed able to cope on that basis alone. If they were low attainers not on the SA radar I would worry, but for the SA kids I think a lot of extra info is taken and demanded. But I'm new to the Yr6 game and may be wrong.

Even if I'm wrong, I want every one of those kids for whom it is possible to legally make the case to get the help they are legally entitled to. Preparing them for a test where even success will seem like failure (most questions beyond them) is a dispiriting nightmare. Any reassurance that can be offered before they go to secondary school would be great. Send them on their way knowing they are capable of 'average' achievement in some circumstances. Obviously I'm anxious to get the best results for my school, but I hope it runs a little deeper than that.

I can really see the OP's point here, but also the school's. If they are fiddling the criteria, screw them. But if not, why not let the kid have a fair crack at the whip for these tests?

adelaofblois Mon 07-May-12 14:43:57

I would also add there is a specific recognised role of prompter for some children, and that this seems to be what the school are offering. A prompter shouldn't be a reader who prompts, though, they have a different role and what they can do is also circumscribed. What are the school actually offering?

adelaofblois Mon 07-May-12 14:50:33

Rules for prompters are:

1. They can only be used if they are used on a routine classroom basis (they are here)

2. They should primarily draw attention to task by physical stimulus (e.g. banging the table)

3. They can use verbal prompts if these are usual classroom practice

So, I think the OP's child qualifies. But if they are also reading, then that malpractice?

Is the school stupidly trying to explain one role in terms it thinks you find more understandable? Or is it just confused and heading for the courts?

EllenJaneisnotmyname Mon 07-May-12 15:01:49

This is really interesting. I wonder where my role with the DC I support fits in? confused He can read, but just prompting him to keep going doesn't work. (as per the instructions to prompters.) In lessons I read the question, breaking it down into manageable chunks, sometimes rewriting it, leave him to do one chunk, go back and start him on the next chunk, etc. In the SATs I am/will be reading the question to him, but not changing the language or breaking it down. Once he finishes a question (in his opinion, not mine!) I read the next, etc. This is the only way he will stay focussed. He gets extra time, but still only gets 2/3rds of the way through. I'm not helping him with the Maths at all, not speaking with emphasis to help him get the sense of the questions, or rewording them (obviously) but he can read. Does the advice state that for a child to get a reader they must have a reading age under 9? The SA and SA+ DC do have a reading age under 9 but the child I support, who has a statement, doesn't.

EllenJaneisnotmyname Mon 07-May-12 15:02:31

Crossed with you, Adela.

Feenie Mon 07-May-12 15:03:59

No, the advice states that a reader can be used if a child is used to having one in the classroom.

Feenie Mon 07-May-12 15:05:13

Re prompters - as I said before, a prompter also requires a separate room with the child - are they really going to provide 8 separate rooms? confused

seeker Mon 07-May-12 15:07:16

Well, I suppose it would be an unfair advantage if sATa were in some way competitive. But as they aren't, the worst that could happen is a child going to secondary school on a higher level on paper than they actully are. Which will be found out and corrected pretty quickly.

Can't see a problem apart from that- am I missing something?

Oh, and if the school is found out for having "helpers" rather than just "readers" they will be in BiG trouble.

EllenJaneisnotmyname Mon 07-May-12 15:15:21

Thank goodness for that, feenie. I was beginning to get worried. smile

adelaofblois Mon 07-May-12 15:15:49


What you are doing in the classroom is reading to facilitate learning. You are not reading because the child can't read, but because you are modelling to him how to break a task down, presumably in the hope he will then be able to do so himself. You obviosuly can't do that breaking down in the test. You are routinely using verbal prompts in the classroom to aid focus, so he should be allowed a prompter. He also routinely has a reader in the classroom, which is the key criterion (not reading age), so a reader should be allowed.

I don't therefore see anything wrong with what you've been told. I would hope that what you can do, and how it falls into relevant criteria, could be made clear to you. If not, seek written confirmation of your role asap. You do not want to be sacked for helping a child.

EllenJaneisnotmyname Mon 07-May-12 15:17:54

Also, the DC with readers and extra time are separate from the other 56 DC, but the 4 are in the same room, one in each corner. So they are separate from the other DC, but not from each other.

adelaofblois Mon 07-May-12 15:59:13

I've looked back over the access arrangements

The phrase I find there repeatedly is 'one-to-one' not separate room, although I am willing to believe precedent and realism has linked the two. I can't help beyond that-we have pooled resources across schools and utilised all space on a maximal reading of separate room.

If you are in any way unsure please check and get written reassurances (however PITA-y you look). Having posted on a public site that you are uncertain, if you are in breach you are now unfortunately very culpable...

Feenie Mon 07-May-12 16:04:00

From the KS2 ARA 2012:


Schools may use prompters in all tests to help children with severe attention problems. Prompters should only be used to draw a child’s attention back to the task. They should not advise the child on which questions to do, when to move on to the next question or the order in which to attempt questions.
The prompter should be the child’s own learning support assistant. A prompter must not be a relative, carer or guardian of the child. They must be used on a one-to-one basis and should work with the child *in a separate room from the rest of the cohort.*"

Feenie Mon 07-May-12 16:04:44

Can't be much plainer than that......

EllenJaneisnotmyname Mon 07-May-12 16:42:25

Well, it is separate from the rest of the cohort, the 56 majority, just in with the other 3, in a separate room. Not many schools will have enough rooms, otherwise.

Feenie Mon 07-May-12 16:54:52

the prompter 'should work with the child in a separate room from the rest of the cohort.

Separate from the rest of them.

I don't think schools need to use that many prompters, tbh - and therefore shouldn't need all those extra rooms......

EllenJaneisnotmyname Mon 07-May-12 17:32:50

My own DS had a prompter and extra time last year. He did his SATs in the same room as the other DC with extra time. It may be down to interpretation...

Feenie Mon 07-May-12 17:44:34

I don't think so! in a separate room away from the rest of the cohort can in no way be interpreted as in the same room. Your ds's school may not know they are breaking the rules - separate rooms haven't always been required.

littlelegsmum Mon 07-May-12 18:15:19

This is a huge issue with dh and I.

Dd's school are telling us how fantastic dd is, whenever we let them know how concerned we are at her lack of progress. However, in mock sats she was allowed a helper (or what they call a reader)! Now from where I'm standing they are very happy to let dd work in supported in class yet give her help in her sats?!?! This is not right in our opinion but can we insist on her not having a helper?

Feenie Mon 07-May-12 18:28:29

Your post is unclear - do you mean your dd is unsupported in class? That doesn't sound like she qualifies for a reader at all.

IndigoBell Mon 07-May-12 18:58:12

Feenie - littlelegs has an ongoing problem with her school where they refuse to acknowledge her DD has SEN and is doing badly.

Can she stop them getting a reader for her DD? I don't think she can......

Feenie Mon 07-May-12 19:04:09

No, but she could report them to the LEA for malpractice - the school cannot have it both ways! If littlelegs' dd has reading help in the classroom, then she is entitled to a reader. Since she clearly does not, then she shouldn't have one.

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