Sats reading paper released early after complaints it was too difficult

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The KS2 year 6 reading paper has been released early after complaints from parents and teachers over the difficulty of the questions.

Due to be published on Monday, the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) made the exam available “due to public interest in the tests”.

James Bowen, assistant general secretary at the school leaders’ union the NAHT, said: “We are pleased that the Government will be looking at what happened with the reading test this year.

“It is essential that test papers are accessible for the large majority of pupils. We need to remember that these are 10 and 11-year-olds and the last thing we need are papers that leave them feeling demotivated and dejected.”

Sats, or Standard Assessment Tests, are used to measure children’s English and maths skills in year 2 and year 6, and consist of six papers which last between 30 minutes and an hour.

Last week, the NAHT expressed concerns over the Sats reading paper, saying it planned to raise the issue with exams regulator Ofqual and the STA.

A child in a primary school classroom
Sats are used to measure children’s English and maths skills in year 2 and year 6 (Danny Lawson/PA)

The first was an extract from a story about friends who believed they had come across sheep “rustlers” – a word used in the text, which means someone who steals animals from farms.

The second was an interview with a bat expert about a bat colony in Texas, adapted from a 2016 New York Times article.

The final passage was taken from a book called The Rise Of Wolves, where a young boy called Innis hears a wolf in the remote rural area he lives in.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Key Stage 2 assessments are an important way of identifying pupils’ strengths and where they may have fallen behind as they head to secondary school.

“The Standards and Testing Agency (STA) independently develop these tests, with questions rigorously trialled with year 6 pupils and reviewed by education and inclusion experts to ensure appropriateness. Ofqual regulate all national curriculum assessments, which includes observing STA’s processes.

“The STA will continue to work with schools, children and parents to understand the views on this year’s papers.”

Outlined below are some of the more unclear or harder questions from the paper.

– Question 2 asked why the main character in the story, Priya, was surprised to hear two vehicles drive by at nighttime. But the mark scheme specified pupils should not be rewarded for giving the midnight setting as the response – even though this would be a logical inference.

Question: Why did Priya find it surprising to hear two vehicles drive by?

Relevant extract: “Priya was surprised, and now she was completely awake. They had only seen a couple of cars all day, and now two had come past together.”

Answer: “Because they hadn’t heard that many cars drive by.”

Mark scheme note: Do not accept reference only to it being late at night/very early in the morning, eg because it was the middle of the night.

– Question 8 asked pupils to choose the correct meaning of “wriggled” in the same passage.

Question: She wriggled back inside the tent. What does this tell you about how Priya got inside the tent? Tick one.

She ran quickly inside/She jumped through the flap/She had to squeeze in/She crept in quietly.

Answer: She had to squeeze in.

But online thesauruses by Merriam-Webster and Collins list “creep” as a synonym for “wriggle”, among others.

– Question 30 asks why Innis, the main character in the third story who has just heard a wolf, found it hard to “trust his own senses”.

But the passage does not actually suggest Innis distrusts his own senses. Rather the boy understands straight away there is a wolf, and tries to convince himself the wolf does not exist. He walks quickly to leave the area which is becoming dark.

Question: What two things made it hard for Innis to trust his own senses when he was looking for the wolf? Tick two.

Relevant extract: The howl pierced the darkening sky and made Innis Munro stop dead in his tracks. He pulled his hood down, listened intently. The only sound was his beating heart. That was a wolf, he thought. But it couldn’t have been. There were no wolves on the island of Nin, no wolves in Scotland any more, not for almost 300 years. It was just a trick of the wind. He pressed on but kept his hood down. The afternoon light of early March was fading fast, snow was falling, and he was still a good half-mile from home. Innis walked faster, told himself it was not the howl that made him hurry but the gloomy sky and gathering snow.

The choices: How flat the land was/the fading light/how tired he felt/the weather/how fast he was walking

Answer: The fading light, the weather.

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