For the love of facts: There is nothing wrong with the KS2 Spag test.
(That is what some people say!)
There is something fundamentally wrong with this test. It is testing knowledge that children have not had time to learn. It is assuming that children leaving Y6 have had a rigorous and thorough grammar education, which is supplied by the government in the form of a GaPS curriculum.
However, herein lies the problem for the children taking these tests in May. They will not have had 2 years of learning from this new curriculum because it hasn’t been out that long, and the tests are taken in May cutting a further 20% of the learning time in Y6.
I have recently read arguments on prominent blogs and on twitter that suggest grammar teaching does not have to be dull and boring, that learning grammar will not turn children off learning English and that just because the children have to learn to label the language terms (in order to pass a test) this doesn’t mean that they won’t enjoy learning them because ultimately children like to learn. I agree with the fact it doesn’t have to be dull and boring.
However, with the rushed implementation of the tests comes a range of implications.
So that is the problem - what is the solution?
I am not against the testing of children and I am not against the GaPS test per se.
What I am against is the children currently in UKS2 being tested on it. That and the fact that this measurement is then used to judge teachers.
In previous schools I have been given targets based on the outcomes of children at the end of the year. Basically I was given the number of children who were expected to pass the range of tests at the end of each year group at age related expectations or above.
I was told that these targets would be used as part of our staff performance management and that this could adversely affect our pay, either by halting a rise up the pay scale or leading to a reduction in pay for those staff on UPS who did not meet the targets.
This may not sound too bad; you may think that teachers who are not getting children to reach their potential don’t deserve to travel up the pay scale. A teacher who does not do their damnedest to teach their children meet their potential is a rare teacher indeed.
Further worry is caused by schools using ‘aspirational’ targets. Targets set by SLT who decide where it would be ‘nice’ to get to and often these are unachievable targets for some pupils. This has huge implications too. More drilling, more cramming, more missing ‘lesser’ parts of the curriculum in order to bash the targets.
For me the solution is easy. Implement a rolling programme for the new testing regime. Introduce the new curriculum but test pupils in two years’ time when they have had time to learn the content in an interesting and engaging way: a way which is not superficial and decontextualized. Test the pupils when they have had opportunity to embed the new curriculum in their learning and use it in a range of contexts ensuring that they are secure in their use and application. Test pupils when their understanding of grammar is deeper than surface level and they are able to retain and use their knowledge more than to simply select the correct multiple choice answer in a test booklet.
As always I am happy for you to point out errors and I look forward to reading your comments.