The new Key Stage 2 tests measure quite different aspects of pupil attainment to the 2015 ones. Schools will differ in how well they have prepared for these new tests and here we explore the extent to which there are local authority differences in success rates across the new and old tests.
The chart below shows each local authority’s overall performance, as measured by the proportion of pupils achieving the ‘expected’ score, in 2016 and 2015. The bar has been raised in 2016 so that the proportion passing is about 16 percentage points lower overall. Areas doing relatively well overall in these new tests include: Wandsworth, Bristol, Havering, Slough, Croydon, Kent, Gateshead, Barking and Dagenham, Hackney and Poole. Areas doing relatively poorly compared to 2015 include: Swindon, Liverpool, Calderdale, Dorset, West Sussex, Stoke-on-Trent, Oldham, Peterborough, St Helens and Wirral.
However, one element of this overall metric – writing – was moderated across schools by the local authority and so there is clearly some concern that standards were not consistent across the country. If we compare the 2016 writing and reading figures in local authorities we can see some very clear disparities. Local authorities such as Hackney, Havering and NE Lincolnshire have very high writing scores, given their reading performance. Local authorities such as Liverpool, West Sussex, Swindon, Dorset and Kingston Upon Thames have very low writing scores, given their reading performance. Of course, it is perfectly possible that children across West Sussex have particular difficulties in writing compared to reading. But it seems more likely that moderation within this local authority was particularly harsh.
Our suspicion is that consistency in moderation across local authorities is much worse in 2016 than it was in 2015. It is notable that the correlation between local authority reading and writing scores is 0.35 in 2016 compared to 0.84 in 2015 (admittedly for level 4 in each). This may be because schools and local authorities are not yet familiar with the new expected standard. Michael Tidd has written a series of post (see here for an example) arguing that the guidelines were not precisely specified making it impossible for consistency to be achieved.
Given these concerns about the writing moderation this year, perhaps it would be safer to judge overall performance on maths and reading only. On this metric local authorities such as Kingston, who appear to have judged writing more harshly than others, should be very pleased with their results.
Edit: if we compare the 2016 writing standard against every other published local authority metric (e.g. 2015 writing, 2016 reading, maths, SPAG, etc…), this is our judgement of where writing moderation has been far too harsh (in no particular order):
- West Sussex
- West Berkshire
- Cheshire East
By contrast, we feel that writing moderation may have been too generous in these areas:
- South Tyneside
- NE Lincolnshire
- N Lincolnshire
- Central Bedfordshire
- Tower Hamlets