National curriculum tests

A new national curriculum was introduced in 2014. As a result, the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) is changing the tests so that they assess the new curriculum. Pupils will take the new tests for the first time in May 2016.

The DfE (Department for education) have published materials to help teachers gain a better understanding of the new tests. The test frameworks explain the structure and content of the tests. The Dfe have also published a complete set of sample key stage 1 (KS1) and key stage 2 (KS2) tests for English reading, English grammar, punctuation and spelling and mathematics.

As part of the national curriculum review, levels have been abolished. This is in part in response to concerns about the validity and reliability of levels and sub-levels. These concerns had an impact on pupils’ learning, but also on the relationships between primary and secondary schools and the trust in their assessments. Levels have also been recognised as the driver of undue pace through the curriculum, which has led to gaps in pupils’ knowledge.

The DfE are changing the way the tests are reported. From 2016, the DfE will use scaled scores to report national curriculum test outcomes. Headteachers won’t need to change the way their school prepares for, or administers, the tests because of the introduction of scaled scores. Within key stages, schools and teachers will have the freedom to assess what pupils understand and can do in a way that best suits the needs of their school.

Scaled scores

The move to scaled scores was announced as part of the previous government’s response to the consultation on reforming assessment and accountability for primary schools.

Scaled scores are used all over the world. They help test results to be reported consistently from one year to the next. The DfE design national curriculum tests to be as similar as possible year on year, but slight differences in difficulty will occur between years. Scaled scores maintain their meaning over time so that two pupils achieving the same scaled score on two different tests will have demonstrated the same attainment. For example, on our scale 100 will always represent the ‘national standard’. However, due to the small differences in difficulty between tests, the ‘raw score’ (ie the total number of correct responses) that equates to 100 might be different (though similar) each year.

The DfE can’t give full information about what the scale will look like yet. They need to wait until pupils have taken the tests and the tests have been marked before they can set the national standard and the rest of the scale. They can’t set the scale in advance; this cohort is the first that has reached the end of key stage 2 having studied sufficient content from the new national curriculum. If they were to set the scale using data from pupils that had studied the old national curriculum, it is likely it would be incorrect.

The DfE do know the scale will have a lower end point below 100 and an upper end point above 100. Once the DfE have set the national standard they will use a statistical technique called ‘scaling’ to transform the raw score into a scaled score. The DfE will publish this after the first tests have been administered.

The standards underpinning the scale will be maintained as long as there is no large-scale change to what the tests cover. Once the national standard has been set in summer 2016, they will maintain the standard in subsequent years by using a process known as ‘test equating’. When the DfE trial future tests in schools, they will also administer a separate ‘anchor test’. This test remains the same over time. It allows the DfE to link scores from one test to another to ensure standards are maintained.

Interpreting scaled scores.

A pupil’s scaled score will be based on their raw score. The raw score is the total number of marks a pupil receives in a test, based on the number of questions they answered correctly. The pupil’s raw score will be translated into a scaled score using a conversion table. A pupil who achieves the national standard will have demonstrated sufficient knowledge in the areas assessed by the tests. This will mean that they are well placed to succeed in the next phase of their education.

The typical characteristics of pupils at the national standard are illustrated by the test performance descriptors. These are included in the 2016 KS1 and KS2 test frameworks. However, as with all tests, pupils can achieve their marks in a number of different ways. If a pupil achieves the national standard this doesn’t imply that the pupil has mastered all of the knowledge and skills indicated in the test performance descriptor. Headteachers will need to include results from the national curriculum tests in their annual reports to parents. They will need to report the pupil’s scaled score and whether or not they met the national standard.

The old national curriculum levels are not relevant to the new national curriculum. However, in order to provide schools with some indication of the new standards, we have tried to indicate equivalence in a broad sense. At KS1 the national standard will roughly equate to an old level 2b. At KS2 this will roughly equate to an old level 4b. Otherwise levels and scaled scores will not be comparable. However, there has been lots of questions around how the old curriculum levels and new national curriculum standards do not equate in this way as the standard has risen so significantly. I feel that this will only be addressed when we have been through the new tests and witnessed how this relates in results and standards evident in the paper.


The data projections for the end of year (attainment) for each year group have been set taking in to consideration a number of factors:


  • Using the individual child’s EYFS and end of each year group results
  • Ensuring that we are driving the standards and expectations for the number of children achieving ARE+ to reflect the SIP targets and the drive for outstanding
  • High expectations to ensure that we are delivering an exceptional curriculum which drive standards for ALL children
  • Ensuring that ALL vulnerable groups are making at least expected progress and that there is NO gap between vulnerable groups
  • Ensure that we are meeting the needs of our more able children and ‘capturing’ a group of children who have the ability to be challenged to be ‘more able.’

When we talk about attainment then we look at the number of children who will meet ARE (age related expectations). Relating to pupil tracker this is equal to a child achieving the end of year secure e.g. a year 4 child in order to be ARE, needs to be show that they are a Y4S (Year 4 secure).


When we talk about progress, we are talking about tracking points. It is expected that each child will make at LEAST 3 tracking points across the year to make made EXPECTED progress. The expectation is that ALL children in every year group will make at LEAST three tracking points. The children who are more able should make 4 or 5 tracking points. Each tracking point represents a move through emerging, developing and secure to give the child a total of three. If a child is recorded as showing depth of learning then extra points are given. This is carefully moderated to ensure accuracy across the school through book scrutiny

Depth of learning

The old National curriculum saw children ’racing’ through the content of each year group and then going onto the next year group. The new national curriculum focuses on DEPTH and ensures that the children’s learning has real understanding and dimension which ensures that children can APPLY the skills learnt. This is called greater depth. Bearwood Primary and Nursery school ensures that pupils have greater depth, application of knowledge and independence in their current achievements before moving on to new learning. This is called depth of learning. We achieve this through focusing on teaching and giving opportunities for pupils to explore this important new expectation in order for children (particularly more able pupils) to meet the raised expectations of the new National Curriculum. Only children with higher depth of learning will be able to access the more complex End of Key Stage assessment questions to attain higher marks.