School heads respond to Morecambe MP's exam '˜underperformers' pledge

Headteachers have hit back after the Morecambe MP said he'd help '˜underperformers' in SATs exams get up to scratch.

Thursday, 22nd December 2016, 9:29 am
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 3:12 pm
David Morris.

The heads defended their schools’ performance in the controversial tests for 11-year-olds after David Morris praised some local schools who did well but said others had “dramatically lowered the average” pass rate in Morecambe and Lunesdale.

The SATs have been hugely unpopular with teachers and parents and have been described as the hardest ever exams for pupils about to go to secondary schools.

Results published last week varied widely across the Lancaster and Morecambe district.

Mr Morris praised the top performers in his constituency, specifically naming Torrisholme Community Primary (72% pass rate), Silverdale St John’s (78%) and St Mary’s Catholic Primary in Morecambe (67%).

The Conservative MP also said: “It shows that education across Morecambe and Lunesdale has high standards but sadly there are schools who achieved low results, such as 14 and 26 per cent, which has dramatically lowered the average in the constituency.

“I will be working with the Department of Education to ensure that these schools who have underperformed are given the support they need from government and advice from other schools in the area who have done well to ensure that no child in my constituency is left behind.”

But a Morecambe head, speaking on behalf of the Lancaster and Morecambe primary school heads’ cluster, said: “Mr Morris has got it wrong.

“The results are based not only on scores from tests but also on pupil progress. He hasn’t mentioned anything about that.

“The Department of Education has been quite clear that because of mistakes around implementation of SATs there are to be no interventions based on this year’s data set.

“The need to share best practice is based on a wider set of measures.”

The schools referred to by Mr Morris were Trumacar in Heysham and Yealand (14% pass rate) and Morecambe Bay (26% pass rate).

Paul Slater, headteacher of Trumacar, said: “The school was expecting poorer results in 2016, based on KS1 results for this cohort together with the fact that nearly 50% of children in the cohort joined the school during the juniors with low starting points.

“This prediction was shared during our January 16 Ofsted inspection for which we received a ‘Good’ with praise for the way in which the school had developed and achieved year on year improved results to 2015. This anomaly, together with lower overall national results shows some flaw in the tests, but data for the current Year 6 pupils shows that the school will one again be achieving higher results in 2017.”

A school is deemed to be above the floor standard if at least 65 per cent of pupils meet the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics, or if the school satisfies separate pupil progress measures in those subjects.

The national pass rate was 54%, the same as Lancashire’s, but Morecambe and Lunesdale achieved an average of 47%.

In October, education secretary Justine Greening said that no decisions on intervention would be made on the basis of 2016 data alone.

Mr Morris raised his concerns at Education Questions in Parliament after the SATs results were published.

Nick Gibb, Minister for School Standards, told him a national network of teaching schools, as well as partnerships led by schools that excel, had been set up to share best practice.

Mr Gibb has also defended the new SATs system, saying: “This year’s SATs are the first that test the new primary school curriculum in English and maths that we introduced in 2014. This new curriculum raises expectations and ensures pupils become more accomplished readers and are fluent in the basics of arithmetic.

“Many schools have responded well to this more rigorous curriculum, supporting their pupils to be leaving primary school better prepared for the demands of secondary school.”

Meanwhile Cat Smith, the Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, congratulated all pupils who took the exams this year.

Ms Smith also hit out at the Government saying it has been “a year of failure” for the SATs policy.

“I want to congratulate all the children who took their SATs this year, as well as their teachers and parents who supported them,” she said.

“Whatever level they achieved, they did really well and should be proud of themselves in what has been a year of government failure in primary school exams.

“Papers have been leaked online, assessments have been scrapped at the last minute, and nationally only half of all children met the expected standards in the SATs tests because this government’s tinkering has left chaos in the exam system.”