Short sentences and familiar words added to Sats tests

Examiners are being told to use “familiar words”, short sentences and clearer fonts to avoid confusing children who speak English as a second language, it has emerged. This is from the Telegraph…

Ofqual, the qualifications regulator, said that test providers should make a series of key changes to the way exams sat by 11-year-olds are written to boost “accessibility”.

In new guidance, the watchdog suggested that new exam papers should be free of subordinate clauses and place a limit on the number of verbs in each sentence.

It also provides examiners with a list of the 1,000 most familiar words in the English language. Sticking to the list while scripting exam papers “would maximise the readability of these tasks”, said Ofqual.

The watchdog insisted the guidance – applying to exams sat in England – was needed because “some pupils may not understand some of the words or phrases used in an exam or assessment”.

“This could be because English is not their first language or they have a learning disability,” it said.

The disclosure follows the publication of figures earlier this year showing that one-in-six pupils in primary schools now speak other languages in the home.

But the move prompted claims that it represented an “erosion of exam standards”.Chris McGovern, a former head teacher and chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: “There should always be provision for children who speak English as a second language but there is no need to dumb down the exam terminology. It is an insult to these children.

“A lot of them are very bright, motivated and better at English than native speakers – and they won’t want to be sitting an exam that’s been skewed for their sake. It represents an erosion of exam standards.”

But Ofqual defended the document. A spokesman said: “It is important that the assessments give all pupils the fairest opportunity to show what they know, understand and can do.“

The guidance, which was developed in partnership with subject and assessment experts, aims to help achieve this, as well as making sure that questions properly assess the skills and abilities they are designed to test.”

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