Today’s Education in the media blog discusses key stage 2 SATs and access to post-16 education for working-class students.
Next month pupils in year six will take the key stage 2 (KS2) national curriculum tests – commonly known as SATs. These tests, alongside teacher assessment of English writing, are a measure of schools’ performance and to make sure individual pupils have the support that they need as they move into secondary school.
In recent weeks, we have seen a number of stories about the tests and their impact on the wellbeing of pupils – including some coverage of suggestions that parents should boycott the tests entirely. On Sunday, 22 April, The Observer ran a piece including claims that the assessments are putting schools under pressure leading some teachers to cheating.
We are absolutely clear that any sort of maladministration of the national curriculum assessments is completely unacceptable, and all allegations are investigated. Teachers, however, should not feel under undue pressure because of the assessments and they certainly should not pass on any stress to pupils.
The assessments are a key part of primary school education as they let teachers know where pupils need extra help and help us and parents understand how well schools are performing.
The KS2 assessments themselves don’t cover anything that children wouldn’t be doing as part of their day to day school work and results of them don’t follow pupils during their school careers. As such, children should not be made to feel undue pressure over them.
Headteachers make the final decision about whether a pupil participates in the KS2 tests or not. If parents have concerns about their children participating in the KS2 tests then they should speak to their schools in the first instance.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
Thanks to our reforms and the hard work of teachers, 1.9 million more children are in good and outstanding schools than in 2010. The key stage 2 tests are vital in helping to ensure children are learning to read, write and add up well, which lays the foundations for success at secondary school and beyond.
The tests are intended to help schools understand where pupils need more support and to assess schools’ performance. We trust schools not to put undue pressure on pupils or teachers when administering the assessments, and certainly not at the expense of their wellbeing.
Today, Monday 23 April, National Union of Students (NUS) released a report on access to further and higher education for working-class students. The report explores possible barriers working-class students and those from poorer backgrounds face to post-16 study.
The department has done a great deal to ensure the affordability of higher education for students. No student faces upfront costs to enrolling at university and students from the lowest income households who started their courses this year have access to the largest ever amounts of cash-in-hand support for their living costs.
This government has increased means-tested living costs support for full-time undergraduate students on low incomes by 10.3 per cent in 2016/17, compared with the previous grants and loans package. A further increase of 2.8 per cent will apply for the 2017/18 academic year, as will a 3.2 per cent increase for 2018/19.
The system means that disadvantaged young people are going to university at record rates – up by 43 per cent in 2016 compared with 2009.
For those not attending university, 16-19 year olds who need financial help to participate in post-16 education can get help from the 16-19 Bursary Fund. As part of this, bursaries of up to £1,200 per year are available to students in ‘vulnerable groups’, including young people in care, care leavers, and those receiving certain income or disability benefits in their own right.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
No young person should experience barriers to their education – and our reforms to higher, further and technical education are going further than any before to make sure that every young person can fulfil their potential, whatever their background.
We are seeing record rates of 18 year olds, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, entering full time university education and our reforms to apprenticeships are opening up more high quality training routes to young people from all backgrounds.
We are determined to continue this progress – and our recently launched review of post 18 funding will consider how we can make sure students get more choice and value for money whatever form of education they choose.