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Written Statement - Response to Consultation on National Reading and Numeracy Tests

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Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills

Improvements in levels of literacy and numeracy are central to our educational objectives. The National Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) sets clear national expectations for teachers and will be a critically important driver of improvement, helping all schools to embed literacy and numeracy across all subjects in the curriculum. The LNF will be a statutory curriculum requirement for pupils from Reception to Year 9, from September 2013.  

Statutory reading and numeracy tests for pupils in Year 2 to Year 9 are being developed to provide further, robust evidence of pupils’ level of attainment, in addition to teacher assessments.Consultations on both the LNF and the National Reading and Numeracy Tests took place between June and October last year. 160 written responses were received from a variety of stakeholders and over 300 teachers attended consultation events to give their feedback on the Welsh Government proposals. I am grateful for all of the responses received.  

Several key themes emerged from the consultation responses in relation to the tests:

  • respondents felt it would be useful to develop supplementary material to use alongside reading tests, but this would need to be considered again properly once the exact form of the new tests are known; 
  • a majority of respondents felt that it would be worthwhile to report age-equivalent scores for tests, in addition to standard scores and progress scores – however, there was more limited support for sharing these scores externally; 
  • there was a wide variety of anticipated practical implications of marking and administering national reading and numeracy tests; and
  • there was a wide variety of suggestions as to how the test data could be best analysed and used to help drive up standards, and a number of respondents expressed concerns about the validity of the test data due to the security of the test results.

A report summarising the consultation responses will be published on the Learning Wales website in Spring 2013. However, I want to set out today the steps we are taking to respond to the consultation.

Provision of supplementary material

Additional material is being designed to assist teachers in making formative assessments of their pupils’ reading - this will add to the data provided by the tests themselves.  In addition, sample materials relevant to the main reading and numeracy tests will be made available in advance of May 2013 to assist schools in implementing them.

Age-equivalent scores

In line with the consensus from the consultation, age-equivalent scores will be made available for parents’ information, supported by appropriate advice about how to interpret them.  However, in light of concerns about overall validity, these scores will not be used for data analysis or reported to schools as part of the school-level analysis provided.

Data use and interrogation

I have taken note of the issues raised in the consultation and my officials are continuing to explore with systems suppliers what analyses can be developed in order to assist schools and others to use the data from the tests most effectively.

Transitional support for implementation

We have designed the tests to be as simple to administer as possible. It is also important to note that many schools will have been administering a range of tests in any case for a number of years, so the additional burdens will be limited. I recognise, however, that there will be some need for additional support for schools in the first year and I am therefore pleased to be able to announce:

  • A one-off grant of £0.5 million to schools, for the 2012/13 academic year only, to assist them in test implementation in that first year; 
  • Special test-focused input led by the test developers at a series of regional conferences as part of the National Support Programme for the LNF; and
  • Provision of a telephone advice line and visiting support service for schools, again in the first year, to ensure that the tests are implemented as smoothly as possible.

I will publish more detail on the operation of these initiatives shortly.