Petition launched to change KS2 Writing Test

Dyslexia Action strongly believes in the need for changes to the current Key Stage 2 writing assessment with regard to how spelling is assessed and today urges parents and teachers to review and sign the petition put forward by Head Teacher Justin Kelly.

The move comes after concerns were raised at a recent All Party Parliamentary Group for Dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties.

Mr Kelly, of Tadworth Primary School, Surrey, who attended the APPG, said:  “It is almost impossible for children with spelling difficulties to reach 'the expected standard' in writing. Two small concessions would make a big difference - removal of spelling from teacher assessment of writing and reporting on the outcomes of the spelling test, separate from grammar and punctuation.”

APPG Chair Sharon Hodgson MP is seeking reassurances from the Minister of State for School Standards, The Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, on behalf of members, that children with dyslexia will not be ‘unfairly disadvantaged’ because accuracy of spelling is a limiting factor when it comes to the overall judgement being made.

James Bowen, Director of NAHT Edge, a union for middle leaders, told the APPG, that the primary assessment, in terms of writing, was ‘not fit for purpose’ and ‘disadvantaged pupils with dyslexia’. He also called for the spelling criteria to be removed and the assessment process modified.

 

Explanation

Mr Bowen explained that when it comes to the teacher assessed element, the new ‘secure-fit’ approach, introduced last year, means a pupil has to spell complex words accurately to be judged to be working at the ‘expected standard’ in writing, which he deems inappropriate for a child with dyslexia. The additional writing test is split into two sections: Paper 1 tests grammar, punctuation and vocabulary, but guidance states ‘correct spelling is also required for the award of the mark (available) for the majority of questions’. Spelling Paper 2 contains 20 words and carries a potential 29% of the overall mark for English.

Previously, a teacher was able to award the level that best suited the child’s work. This meant if there were spelling issues a child could still meet ‘the expected standard’ (then known as level 4) if their work matched the majority of the other criteria such as grammatical structure, writing for a specific purpose and conveying meaning.

 

Demoralising

Mr Bowen highlighted how head teachers are concerned that brilliant writers were at risk of being judged below the ‘expected standard’ of an 11 year old because of spelling alone and someone whose writing was relatively dull and unadventurous could score better overall. “It is incredibly demoralising for those children who nearly get to the bar but don’t get over it,” he added.

Dyslexia Action agrees spelling should be assessed separately so children can be spared from being told they are ‘not at the expected level’ as a writer because they can’t spell. It fears overall results may deteriorate as one in 10 children with dyslexia in this country may become discouraged from being creative and adventurous in their writing, including choice of vocabulary, in case they spell incorrectly.

Director of Education at Dyslexia Action Dr John Rack, who believes children with dyslexia are being unfairly disadvantaged and discriminated against by the Key Stage 2 writing test, said: “Even the greatest child writers may never be deemed to have reached the ‘expected level’ if they have spelling difficulties, and there is a risk that their motivation and self-esteem will suffer.”

 

Primary Assessment Inquiry

The Education Select Committee’s Primary Assessment Inquiry, has also heard evidence on this matter.