How secure is secure?

One of the (many) challenges of the new world of assessment is knowing just how much of the curriculum a child needs to secure to be on track to achieve the vital scaled score of 100 in the new tests. This week we got a little glimmer of help on this front, when the new test frameworks were published.

Now, I should stress from the start that I don’t offer this as a guaranteed measure (far from it), or even necessarily advise that you take any notice of it. But for those people looking closely at the new expectations, it’s certainly a matter of interest. I have started going through the performance descriptors tucked away in the new test frameworks which outline “the typical characteristics of pupils in Year 6 (or Year 2) working at the threshold of the expected standard”

The DfE themselves include a couple of caveats here which are worth noting, that the frameworks are not designed for teacher assessment or to guide teaching and learning (full text below). Nevertheless, the importance placed on the tests mean that it is useful for schools to have this information as a guide. It is my intention to repeat this process for each test, but I have started with Maths as it is the most straightforward.

The first key thing to note is that there appears to be a real difference in expectations of ‘coverage’ across the two key stages. The criteria for scoring 100 on the KS1 test match almost exactly with the specifications of the Year 2 curriculum: in essence, children will need to have learned almost the entire KS1 curriculum to be ‘on-track’ for scoring 100 in the KS1 Maths tests.

By contrast, the framework seems to show that children will not be expected to be secure in the entirety of the primary curriculum to reach the expected score of 100. In fact, in mathematics, it looks as though achieving around 60% of the Year 6 criteria securely should be just about sufficient to reach the golden score of 100. That’s based on cross-referencing each of the 48 Y6 curriculum objectives against the statements from the performance descriptor. Alongside this, it appears that almost the entire spread of Y5 objectives will be needed at a secure level. Neverthless, this is a good deal less than some of us feared (I had previously been aiming for 85% security as a minimum).

Interestingly, if you strip the objectives back to the 30 I set out in my Key Objectives documents, then the 60% threshold still holds true. If you’re using only the NAHT’s Key Performance Indicators, then the percentage will need to rise to around 70% (as there are far fewer of these).

You can download the full document to see the direct comparison between Y5/6 maths objectives (taken directly from the National Curriculum) and the item from the performance descriptor here:


I shall endeavour to repeat the process for the Reading and GPS tests (although reading is much harder to pin down) if I can. I have now looked at the other subjects, and it’s worth being aware that 70% does not look like a universal requirement; it’s much harder to separate out the content for the GPS tests because of the way the curriculum is (poorly) organised, and it’s virtually impossible to draw comparisons for the Reading statements because the statutory curriculum is very broad and focuses largely on discussion and teaching approaches rather than outcomes. Nevertheless, I’ve tried to draw the comparisons as best I can, and it seems that for the other subjects children will be expected to be familiar with almost the entire curriculum content. I have attached the relevant curriculum comparison documents here:

Compare Y1-2 GPS objectives to framework

Compare Y2 Maths objectives to framework

Compare Y2 Reading objectives to framework

Compare Y5-6 GPS objectives to framework

Compare Y5-6 Maths objectives to framework

Compare Y5-6 Reading objectives to framework

Caveats taken directly from the Maths test framework:

The framework specifies the purpose, format, content and cognitive domains of the key stage 2 mathematics tests; it is not designed to be used to guide teaching and learning or to inform statutory teacher assessment.

This performance descriptor describes the typical characteristics of pupils whose performance in the key stage 2 tests is at the threshold of the expected standard. Pupils who achieve the expected standard in the tests have demonstrated sufficient knowledge to be well placed to succeed in the next phase of their education, having studied the full key stage 2 programme of study in mathematics. This performance descriptor will be used by a panel of teachers to set the standards on the new tests following their first administration in May 2016. It is not intended to be used to support teacher assessment since it reflects only the elements of the programme of study that can be assessed in a paper-based test

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4 thoughts on “How secure is secure?

  1. cazzypot2013 4 July 2015 at 12:07 am Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. teachwell 4 July 2015 at 9:56 am Reply

    Thank you for doing that – I was looking at the reading paper and it obviously can only assess parts of the objectives (e.g. it will not be able to test for the ability to recite poems – which by the way I did last week out of curiosity with an intervention group but that’s another story!). I think if the tests are used to secure teacher judgement (which needs to be included for all the other areas) then fine, it’s actually a sensible mix of the two. However, if the test is meant to be the indicator of whether the child is secure then it won’t work really although even in a mixed system the test (externally marked) would need to be taken into account independently of the teachers assessment as the perverse incentive would be to not report honestly so that the child can achieve a secure threshold regardless. A teacher assessment should be submitted and this could be cross-referenced. We have the technology to do this.
    If there are significant discrepancies between the teacher assessment and the test then this could be investigated.

    We need to stop the perverse incentives as in the short term they may affect teachers and schools but in the long run they affect the children and the society we live in.

  3. julietgreen 5 July 2015 at 2:33 pm Reply

    We have in our school, perverse incentives in reverse. That is to say, teachers are so scared of being seen to ‘inflate’ pupil results, they have for years, erred very much on the side of caution and I have been a lone voice crying in the wilderness, trying to tell them that it is as much of a disservice to deflate levels as it is to inflate them. As a result, our teacher assessments were always below our test results and our writing levels way below our reading levels. I will always argue strongly against teacher assessment for high-stakes purposes. In my mind, it’s ludicrous to expect teachers to do this and I’m always surprised when other educationalists continue to think it’s the gold standard of assessment.

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