School reading test overhauled to stamp out ‘cheating’

A controversial reading test for six-year-olds is to be reformed amid fears teachers are attempting to cheat the system to inflate children’s results. This is from the Telegraph

The Department for Education has revealed it will withhold the official pass mark in the future because of concerns staff are giving pupils a “helping hand” to make sure they scrape over the threshold.

This summer, more than 600,000 children in English state schools sat the test, which is designed to mark out those who struggle to read after a year of compulsory education.

Pupils are supposed to accurately decode a list of 40 words using synthetic phonics – the back-to-basics method of reading in which words are broken down into constituent parts.

Schools were told that infants reading 32 words were deemed to have passed.

But Government insiders fear that teachers are attempting to manipulate the system by guiding pupils over the threshold to boost their school’s overall performance.

This comes despite the fact that the results of the check are not being used in league tables to measure standards at individual schools.

An analysis of this year’s results published by the DfE shows how results spiked dramatically at 32 – the exact mark that pupils needed.

It emerged that just 6,683 pupils – one per cent of the year group – gained 31 marks. But almost 43,000 children – seven per cent – accurately read 32 words.

Figures also show that a further 76,000 pupils – 12 per cent – scored 33 or 34 in the test.

Suspicions over cheating will raise concerns that national results showing that two-thirds of pupils had good reading skills were too high.

It also means that some children may be missing out on the additional help they need to improve their reading, further damaging standards of primary education.

On Monday, the DfE will write to all primary schools, telling them that the pass mark and overall difficulty level of the test will change when pupils sit the assessment in mid-June 2014.

Teachers will not be told what the pass mark is until the end of June – after all pupils have completed the assessment.

It is the second time in two years that concerns have been raised.

Last year, Ofqual, the exams regulator, warned that teachers had “significantly skewed” the test by pushing pupils over the pass mark, undermining the validity of the process…

More at:  School reading test overhauled to stamp out ‘cheating’

Do the statistics around the 32 word threshold suggest teachers are helping pupils get over it? Is the proposed solution – withholding the pass mark – a sensible way to minimise any impact of this? Please share in the comments or on twitter… 

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Categories: Primary.


  1. Wylmenmuir

    charliehacking Well how else are they going to stop teachers being cheats? If they can’t be trusted, take away… everything!

  2. charliehacking

    Wylmenmuir Yes, and to justify continued spending on ‘first fast and only’ commercial programmes… Capitalism won’t work then, will it?!?

  3. little_mavis

    DavidWray The whole idea that schools won’t know which children are struggling without this test is insulting.

  4. looloobyloo

    Loujs SchoolsImprove as it is a test for 6yr olds and most of mine will only be 5 when do it can I get my chn to do it when actually 6?

  5. covrules

    looloobyloo Loujs SchoolsImprove what does this tell us about the flaws in this form of testing & how useless it actually is?!?!

  6. terryfish

    SchoolsImprove Speaks volumes about the government and their total lack of trust in anyone but themselves. They created the thing!

  7. Paul_Saxelby

    terryfish SchoolsImprove Got this wrong way round, its teacher i don’t trust. I know one or two schools that have inflate levels

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