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Unfair allocation of teacher time/effort re SATS ?

(26 Posts)
SATSmadness Tue 25-Mar-14 14:20:18

At Autumn parents' evening chats where we were told dd1 was on target for a level 6 in Maths and also level 6 for Spelling/Punctuation & Grammar. Her reading level was predicted as a secure level 5 borderline level 6

After Christmas the school stated a whole heap of afterschool classes for various members of year 6 which I can see are targeting help where needed to assist pupils in achieving their own personal target as far as best possible KS2 results is concerned. Dd1 has not been asked to attend any of these classes and I assumed that this applied to all the fairly high achievers in the class, fair enough, teacher/TAs etc. have enough to do bringing on those who need the help most.

Fast forward to recently however, the teacher now says that as dd1 will have a lot on her plate with level 6 SPAG and Maths, she didn't want to put her in for the level 6 reading test too (thinks it is a lot to ask of 10/11 year olds). She said that if she had a bad day (as far as the reading comprehension level 6 test is concerned) dd1 might panic due to pressure of wanting to get things right and it was therefore not a good idea as the pressure might get to her. (dd1 "loves tests and challenges" though hmm ).

Now level 6 is above and beyond for KS2 SATS anyway so I took her advice as sound and left it at that until yesterday I discover that 3 other classmates are all entered for the level 6 Reading test and been attending an afterschool booster class/doing lots of practice tests etc.

I feel annoyed that dd1 hasn't been offered this help too, as clearly anyone else borderline has had plenty of assistance even when borderline level 5 / level 6 (particularly in Maths and SPAG).

I feel fobbed off now re the reason for not entering dd1 for level 6 reading comprehension. Between school and home we could have boosted her up over that line, no ? At least 3 kids in her class will be sitting level 6 in everything so it isn't about too much pressure on small children after all. dd1 and the group she works with in class are all fairly high achievers and she's upset that she has been singled out by not being entered/coached for this. If she had been doing practice along with the other 3 girls surely the chance of nerves getting to her on the day would have been allayed.

Should I say something and insist on dd1 being given the same chance (although this is hard now as she has missed 3 weeks of afterschool classes for this as she wasn't invited to them) ?

dd1 is the person who has made me aware of the matter as she wants the chance to get all 6's if possible and she now sees that as her best friend has brought her maths up to a predicted level 6 (from a level 5) with the assistance of extra help, out of her group of 3 she will be the only one with no chance of all 6's and it's getting her down a little bit thinking about it.

How on earth do I approach the matter without trading on the teaching staff's toes, bearing in mind I have 2 more children going through the same school and many more years of being labelled as a pushy parent if I do speak up.

mammadiggingdeep Tue 25-Mar-14 14:39:57

Ask the teacher why she hasn't been picked for the booster groups.

Schools do want level 6's- it gets reported now and obviously is a good thing for the school. I'm sure that if the teacher thought your dd could comfortably do it and achieve a 6 she'd be sitting it. The teacher must have genuinely believed what she told you.

Maybe ask if you can have some practice papers over Easter and ask if she can sit it after all?? I'm not sure if the children's names would have been submitted now though? Have a feeling it was last week.

tiggytape Tue 25-Mar-14 14:45:46

I'm not sure there's any way to insist she does those papers but you can certainly ask them to level with you and explain the decisions made.

If they have 3 children sitting all of the level 6 papers then they cannot be opposed to that in principle and I suspect therefore the teacher was telling you gently that DD isn't perhaps up to level 6 standard reliably enough in the comprehension tasks to warrant sitting that paper. That's nothing to be upset about. A level 6b is the expected grade at the end of Year 9. Even if she "only" gets a level 5 she will be way ahead of the expected level for her age. The reintroduction of the level 6 has pushed things to a quite silly level in some cases especially when you consider it is a grade aimed at pupils about to embark on GCSEs a few months later certainly not Year 6 pupils - not even very bright ones.

Remember also that SATS aren't terminal exams or GCSEs where the aim is to wring out the highest grade possible on the day and forget about it afterwards. Getting a level 6 in English does a child no favours at all if they aren't reliably and consistently performing at that level on a daily basis. Of course primary schools want to present pupils in the best light - it reflects well on them to have more level 6 passes - but going to secondary school with a level 6 is only helpful if the child is easily of that ability and has not been tutored at home and at school to scrape through. When you say "Between school and home we could have boosted her up over that line, no ?" - that isn't really the idea of SATS and isn't in your DD's best interests to do this if she then struggles all through High School to maintain targets based on officially being a level 6 at the start.

So by all means ask the school to be straight with you and tell you how they decided DD would not be included in the group but be prepared for the fact that insisting she does all Level 6's might not be possible (or desirable).

SATSmadness Tue 25-Mar-14 14:52:48

It's the fact that she hasn't had the extra tuition that rankles. Surely they could have waited until after the booster sessions to see whether it was worth sitting the level 6 paper. If other girls are sitting the paper having had extra tuition then it is uneven playing field anyway.

Is there something special about the reading paper that we're not grasping as the kids sitting it are dd1's peers, she is the go to pupil for answering questions that have stumped all other class mates according to her teacher.

tiggytape Tue 25-Mar-14 16:20:08

There are several elements involved with doing well in the more advanced comprehension papers. Some of these are to do with overall ability - vocabulary and understanding inference for example.
Some of these elements are to do with exam technique – reading quickly and accurately, seeing what is required and correctly allotting time in accordance with points available for each question.
Some of them are to do with being able to provide correct responses under pressure - children who prefer adult clarification just for extra confidence or who take exams very seriously may freeze if faced with something that at first glance is exceptionally difficult or not what they were expecting.

Your DD may be brilliant at 2 of those 3 areas but if the 3rd is lacking in anyway, she might not be able to get through the test successfully. There is obviously an issue that the teacher has spotted and my guess from what she has said to you so far is that it relates to the third possibility – that your DD has been uneasy or has frozen when faced with similar work in class and the teacher has wisely decided that SATS aren’t a good time to freak her out with something that she could do in a non exam environment but will struggle with when under time and exam pressure. To be honest all of this focus at aschool on the build up to SATS in general probably isn’t helping anyone in the class – they will all be nervous wrecks by May at this rate!

If this were her GCSEs and she hadn’t been entered for the higher papers then this would be an issue you should contest since it limits the grade she can achieve but SATS are not like that. She isn’t competing with the other girls. It doesn’t really matter whether they are having hours of tuition at home every night plus booster lessons at school or not. Her results aren’t compared to theirs. And she isn’t losing anything by not being able to sit one of the level 6 papers either. Even if they are relied upon 100% for setting in high school (and most of the time they aren’t) she will be moved up and down sets according to the ability she displays just like every other child. Getting a level 6 in Year 6 does not guarantee keeping a top set place at high school. Since it worries you and possibly her too though, I do think you should raise it and simply ask how the decision was reached.

Fairenuff Tue 25-Mar-14 16:39:18

Don't forget OP that SATS are of no use to children or parents, they only benefit the school.

newbieman1978 Tue 25-Mar-14 16:56:29

I wouldn't get caught up in what other children in the class are doing or not doing as frankly that is between the school and those childrens' parents.

If your childs teacher has given you sounds reasons why your child should not do the level 6 papers which at one point you were happy with then why now are you challenging the teacher? Maybe the teacher was letting you down gently and doesn't think your child is capable enough in that area for a 6.

Ask yourself the question, why would the teacher single out your child? Obviously the teacher and school will benefit or al least look better the more 6's they get.

It really doesn't make sense that if your child was capable the teacher would single her out and not put her in for the level six paper.

Of course everone wants to say "my child got all level 6" but it really means nothing because as soon as the children go to high school they are tested again before being streamed.

A child in my sons class who was never in the top groups in year six aced the first round of tests in high school and ended up in the top set with my son but according to the primary school they were never on the same page academically!

tiggytape Tue 25-Mar-14 17:16:57

There was really interesting report last year based on problems in selecting children for level 6 and also on the VERY low pass rate for Level 6 reading. I cannot link it as it is a pdf but I have quickly copied and pasted some bits for you.

The headline figure is L^ reading is HARD: only 0.3 per cent of the pupils that achieved at least a level 5 went on to achieve a level 6 in Reading compared to 9 per cent for Mathematics in the report (which covered one area of the country but was typical of what was noted elsewhere)

"some schools claimed that, although a minority of their pupils might have demonstrated some level 6 traits (and may even have been capable of exceeding expectations and passing a test on a one-off basis), they remained unconvinced this reflected a 'true' level 6 standard"

" was clearly a matter of looking at numbers and at our individual 'superstars' and asking are they really super enough to take an L6 test? It's one of those catch 22 situations; we don't want to put them into a test where they fail as that would knock their confidence. It's really getting that fine balancing act."

"In a different case the teacher had confidence in the selected pupils being able to do the level 6 test in terms of the content, but far less confidence in them doing so under the time constraints of a higher level test, the format of which would be very different to what they were used to."

"even our very highest readers still struggle with the authors intent and that’s why we didn’t put them in for the level 6 test"

"L6 requires the maturity expected of a 14 year old - as well as the higher order thinking and writing skills, well read, comfortable with a wide range of challenging texts, higher order punctuation and writing. The breadth of life has to be infused into their writing, which only comes with maturity.’" "In contrast, Mathematics was said to be far more transparent in terms of the criteria"

And crucially, in view of last year's results when the pass mark was raised and many schools found none of the children predicted a Level6 achieved it, the threshold required to be entered for it has changed at many schools:

"As we do not wish to enter children into stressful tests unless we are sure they will pass the test (as opposed to working at level 6 in their class work), this will change our entrance criteria. As last year, we will let the children and the parents make the final decision."

"I wasn't at all happy with the increased marking threshold. I was really irritated by that...Lots of disappointed pupils who knew they were L6 pupils because they'd passed previous tests and then they were told they weren't in the test"

"The same school also emphasised how the threshold alteration put them in an awkward position with the pupils' parents and obliged them to try and justify why their children unexpectedly did not pass."

"there were concerns raised that to get to level 6 in Reading required a level of maturity that was beyond many children in Year 6. The results seem to bear these concerns out. Only 0.3 per cent of the pupils that achieved at least a level 5 went on to achieve a level 6 in Reading compared to 9 per cent for Mathematics"

SATSmadness Tue 25-Mar-14 19:32:15

Post school gate update.

The booster class is apparently being run at the insistence of two of the children's parents as they had been told their child was borderline Level5/Level 6 (just as we were) and got together and complained that the afterschool classes were only being run for lower borderline boosting, every child matters etc etc and effectively blackmailed the Headmaster into running them himself. Word spread and third child joined in.

Dd1 wasn't asked apparently as teacher gave the head the impression that we weren't fussed about the matter (we are fairly hands off as dd1 is very self-motivated) and he presumably wanted to limit the spread of the SATS madness.

Head clearly has no idea how academically competitive 10/11 year old bright girls are !

I think there is a lot to be said for the information you posted there tiggytape

I'm totally behind the SATS are a measure of how the school is doing in educating the kids and that they have no relevance once at secondary school as they'll just re-assess all year 7's themselves anyway but we can only repeat this so many times to our kids. We can't stop them being competitive about anything, being it swimming/gymnastics/ballet/football ability, number of admirers who sent you a valentine card or your academic scores.

I'm not going to ask for dd1 to join in as there are now only 2 classes left (Head offered to run then for 5 weeks in total). It would be potentially demoralising for her to try practice L6 papers alongside the 3 who are being coached to achieve L6 so she'll just be sticking with L3-5 like the rest of the class.

I am looking at certain parents (who possibly kept the information to themselves initially) in a whole new light though. SATS madness obviously affects parents more than kids in some households.

Looking forward to secondary school where parents are kept at arms length a bit more - more suited to our hands off approach.

HolidayCriminal Tue 25-Mar-14 19:34:24

Other MNers are saying that the entry deadline has passed so probably too late to change anything.

I would emphasise how disappointed my child was and how it undermines her confidence that other children were deemed up to it but not her. Let it go if they say too late for entry.

No one at DC school had L6 booster sessions for SATs. DD failed to get L6 last yr in the reading test.

( Shameless boast: But in yr7 English assessments she has been getting 6C- 6A smile ).

This shit really doesn't matter.

intheenddotcom Tue 25-Mar-14 19:37:32

I think the teacher is trying to tell you she doesn't think your DD will pass.

cece Tue 25-Mar-14 19:54:34

The level 6 papers will have been ordered by now and the deadline for doing this has passed. So unless a paper has been ordered for your DD then she will not be able to sit the level 6 paper now, even if you go in and kick up a fuss.

mammadiggingdeep Tue 25-Mar-14 21:07:39

Wow, that head needs to get a back bone

"We're not running level 6 booster classes this year. End of"

Cannot believe he was bullied by two parents into running a group he had decided (using professional judgement) not to run.

SATSmadness Tue 25-Mar-14 21:54:11

We did accept the underlying message that dd1 might not ordinarily make level 6 (there's no pass or fail in SATS, remember grin and level 5 is beyond level expected at KS2 anyway.

What's been the gripe here is that other parents didn't accept this, insisted in booster classes to try and secure a level 6, dd1 wasn't included despite apparently working at least at the same level as the other girls, because we didn't think to demand a booster class and weren't tipped off that one had become available after all.

dd1 is acutely aware now from practice in class that these 3 are being tutored to achieve a level 6 and she wasn't given the same opportunity because we accepted what the teacher told us.

She isn't weaker than the other 3 candidates, unless she has gone backwards this year and they have surged ahead wink - they all tell each other their report gradings. They've just had more hands on parents, willing to challenge the establishment in pursuit of a full house of level 6's. It didn't matter to us as parents until it mattered to dd1 when she realised what was going on and by then it was too late for her to have the same opportunity.

C'est la vie ! As I said earlier, I see certain parents in a whole new light now.

mammadiggingdeep Tue 25-Mar-14 22:05:30

...and you also see what schools are up against!!!!

To be honest I'd be pleased my daughter had escaped some of the pressure. Whether she enjoys it or not, is able or not it's all unnecessary!!! As fairenuff said upthread, it's of no benefit to the children. It's all about the school and government...

tiggytape Tue 25-Mar-14 22:29:31

Well I hope the Head has a tin hat handy for when / if any of these girls don't achieve a level 6 then. Fancy stoking up parental madness anxiety like that!

LOTS of children tipped to achieve L6 last year didn't manage it on the reading test and some parents were very cross disappointed about this. The mark scheme was adjusted to set the pass mark way above what any competent 11 year old could achieve.

And in reality, how many children in Year 6 are genuinely so good at interpreting texts that they are on a par with a 14 or 15 year old in Year 9 about to embark on GCSEs? Last year's SATS results would say the answer is less than 1% of Year 6 pupils but some schools do bow to parental pressure to 'let them have a try' despite parents probably not realising quite how out of reach it is designed to be.

Maths is different. Some children are genuinely so far ahead that they quickly master pretty much the entire KS3 curriculum in a year with little effort. They are hard-wired that way and only need to be shown what to do before they can run with it. English is not so easy to master in that way.

There's a thread here from last year about it

Feenie Tue 25-Mar-14 22:42:43

LOTS of children tipped to achieve L6 last year didn't manage it on the reading test and some parents were very cross disappointed about this. The mark scheme was adjusted to set the pass mark way above what any competent 11 year old could achieve.

Added to that, there was some definite game playing. I had four children 1 or 2 marks off the borderline, checked the marking and found lots of mistakes. They came back to me saying 'yep, you are right so we'll give them those marks - but we've checked the paper again and found marks they shouldn't have had so there' - no level 6. Am experienced at sending back re-marking but have never seen that to such a ridiculous extent.

SATSmadness Tue 25-Mar-14 23:43:05

Are all KS2 SATS papers independently marked off site then ?

I wonder if the pass mark going to remain at the new higher level set in 2013 ?

SATSmadness Tue 25-Mar-14 23:45:22

Given that less than 0.5% achieved a reading L6 last year it seems odd to consider putting in 10% of the class for the test, surely we aren't a school with hugely gifted pupils compared to elsewhere in the UK ?

Feenie Tue 25-Mar-14 23:47:29

Reading, SPAG and Maths, yes.

Writing is teacher assessment over many pieces of work thank God - now THAT was a re-marking nightmare, year after year.

Pass mark for Reading level 6 has gone up and up, so yes I would expect it to at least remain static.

tiggytape Wed 26-Mar-14 09:03:27

All are externally marked except writing.
Most schools are working on the assumption that L6 reading will remain at least as hard to achieve this year as last year.

Results in indivdual schools will vary - there are many where zero L6 passes wil be achieved and there are others (near superselective grammar schools for example) where many children in Year 6 will have had private tutoring for 1-2 years in preparation for the 11+ and this will feed into their SATS results.

In the past, some schools entered the entire top set or anyone who fancied the challenge for level 6 papers but you are right - even schools carefully selecting the top few children last year did not get them all through and could not expect to (for the reading paper). There were schools where a fair % got L6 in maths but passes in the reading test remained few and far between.

SATSmadness Wed 26-Mar-14 10:07:34

tiggytape We are possibly fortunate not to have the 11+ tutoring madness in our area (no grammar schools locally) the only tutoring I'm aware of is the afterschool classes.

PastSellByDate Wed 26-Mar-14 10:57:40

My impression (as others have said here) is that soon after starting senior school children are retested anyway - and then obviously within subject classes they're continuously assesssed/ tested.

So yes, disappointing that your child wasn't given the same (?equal) opportunity - but so few actually achieve L6 in English nationally that I wouldn't necessarily read extra tuition automatically = achieving NC L6.

I would raise this not as a complaint specific to your DC - but as a complaint in terms of how the school handles this going forward. Surely all borderline children should be given equal opportunity.

I am pretty confident this ultimately won't affect your daughter. And frankly I think just scraping a L6 isn't a lot of help to a child - sure it obliges the senior school to get them to NC L8 by end KS3 - but a good senior school will be interested in achieving a similar outcome for pupils who came in at NC L5 (on KS2 SATs) (just a random example pulled off web:


Iamnotminterested Wed 26-Mar-14 17:17:53

I'm flabbergasted that a Head would bow to parental pressure and run the booster classes! Surely a true L6 candidate doesn't need 'boosting?' !!!!

Shimmyshimmy Wed 26-Mar-14 21:26:32

Surely a true L6 candidate doesn't need 'boosting?' !!!! what do you mean by a true level 6 - does the same go for any level, a true level 4...a true level 5? Most schools are running boosting courses to take children up a level and improve their stats, they have less chance with level 6 is they are strategically place resources for easy wins.

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