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Written Statement - Ministerial update on the implementation of the National Reading and Numeracy Tests

Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills

The implementation of reading and numeracy tests for pupils in years 2 to 9 in schools in Wales marks a key milestone in the delivery of the Welsh Government’s Improving Schools plan. 

The tests that were sat this May represent the culmination of many months’ work, during which time the tests, which complement the Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF), were extensively trialled and piloted. Welsh Government officials worked together with the test developers, NFER and Acumina, to set the context for, commission and develop a suite of tests, eight for reading and sixteen for numeracy, covering years 2 to 9. Nearly 700,000 test papers were despatched to over 1,650 schools, enabling 300,000 learners to sit the tests during the two week testing window in May. Local Authorities working through the regional consortia played an important role in supporting their schools and monitoring administration arrangements to ensure consistency and fair play.  All can be proud of their part in delivering these tests, which will make a significant contribution to improving the literacy and numeracy skills of our learners.

Individual learners and their parents should be finding out this week how they have done relative to other learners in Wales.  The tests and the data they provide are fundamental to raising standards and for ensuring all our learners make progress. Schools will be able to use the data to identify learners’ strengths and areas for development, enabling schools to intervene earlier if they are falling behind, while also stretching those that are more able.  The tests also help schools to diagnose and benchmark their teaching and learning in the context of the LNF; assisted by a pilot Diagnostic Support Tool for the National Numeracy Test, they will be able to identify components of the LNF where learners overall do well or conversely where they struggle.  This information can then be used in the school development planning process and the identification of priorities for improvement.  The test data will not only assist learners and schools but consortia will be able to analyse the data to help target support for school improvement.

Our vision is that, by tracking progress from the end of the Foundation Phase right the way through into secondary education, the tests will help teachers gain a clearer insight into a learner’s development and progress. This year’s results are very much a baseline, and the point of any baseline is, of course, to measure improvement from it. I hope, therefore, that learners, teachers, schools and local authorities through their consortia, will turn all of their attention to achieving the year-on-year progress that our learners need to make in order to be successful in their adult lives.

The tests are an essential component of our plans to improve standards of literacy and numeracy and we are now beginning to look to next year when the reasoning element of the numeracy tests will be introduced.  It is clear from the initial trials that schools will need to make significant improvements in their teaching of numerical reasoning in line with the expectations set out in the LNF and this will be a priority over the next year.  

There are also, of course,  lessons to be learnt from the implementation of the tests in their first year. I have been pleased with the quality of the feedback that we have received from stakeholders about the tests and their constructive suggestions about how they can be improved. For our part we are very willing to listen to this feedback which will help to inform our review and evaluation of the tests.  Without wishing to pre-judge the findings of our review of the tests I think there are things that we can do better next year and I envisage coming back to Assembly Members in the autumn to set out my plans for implementation of the tests in May 2014.