5 important primary school tests your child may have to take

Primary schools in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland all run different tests at different ages: which ones will your child have to test – and what do they involve?

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Tests in primary school are a subject of much controversy: some people (including the policy makers in the current government) think tests are good because they help schools measure teaching progress and improve standards; others think they’re not so good because, they say, they put young children on a ‘test treadmill’ and cause them unnecessary stress.

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Whatever you think, it’s likely that your child will take some tests during their time at primary school – but which ones and at what age currently depends on whereabouts in the UK your child goes to school. And that’s because England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all have different testing arrangements…

What tests will my child have to do?

Here’s our guide to which test your primary-school child might be required to take, depending on where you live:

1. Reception baseline check (NEW)

At what age? 4 to 5 years olds (Reception class) in England only

What is it? From September 2020 (though, from September 2019, over half of English primary schools will be taking part in a pilot scheme), pupils will be given a “check” in basic literacy, reasoning and cognition during their first few weeks in Reception class.

2. Primary 1 Assessment

At what age? 4 to 5 (P1) in Scotland only

What is it? A numeracy and literacy test (about 30 to 40 minutes long but there’s no official time limit), done using an ‘IT device’ and headphones and based on clicking and dragging cartoon pictures to get the correct answer. Children get the chance to do a practice assessment first, so that they can get used to dragging, scrolling and clicking – and the whole overall feel of the test.

3. Foundation Phase/Early Years Foundation Profile

At what age? 4 to 5  (Reception) in Wales and in England

What is it? This isn’t actually a test; it’s just a report teachers are required to compile for each child, summarising their progress throughout their Reception year in key areas such as communication and language development, physical development, and personal social and emotional development.

4. Phonics check

At what age? 5 to 6 (Year 1) in England only

What is it ? Phonics is a method used in all English schools to help children learn how to read and spell. In this test, which is usually done one-to-one with a teacher, your child will be asked to read out words (some real and some made-up) to see if they have a grasp of phonics or if they need more assistance.

5.  Key stage 1 SATs

At what age? 6 to 7 (Year 2) in England and (by assessment only) in Northern Ireland

What is it? At the end of Year 2, if your child is in an English primary school, they will be tested in reading and maths and assessed by their teacher in writing, speaking and listening and science; the marks will then compared against the “expected standard”.

Your child’s school may share this information with you – but the main point of the marks are to ‘bank’ a score for your child that can be compared to their score in the Key Stage 2 SATs at the end of Year 6, so measuring the”added value” achieved by the school.

(From 2023, Key Stage 1 SATs will be made non-statutory, meaning schools can decide for themselves whether to do the tests or not.)

If your child is in Northern Ireland, your child will be assessed by their teacher in “Communication”, “Using Mathematics” and “Using ICT”, and the reports will be shared with you and the national database.

6. Primary 4 Assessment

At what age? 7 to 8 (P4) in Scotland only

What is it? As with the P1 Assessment, it’s an online test, this time including reading, writing and numeracy questions. There is also a practice paper.

7. Multiplication table check (NEW)

At what age? 8 to 9  (Year 4) in England only

What is it? An online test (that was piloted in many English schools in 2019) to check your child’s understanding and recall of times tables, up to 12 x 12. Teachers can conduct the test either 1-to-1 with your child or in small groups or with the whole class at the same time.

7. Key Stage 2 SATs

At what age? 10 to 11 (Year 6) in England and (by assessment only) in Northern Ireland

What is it? If your child goes to an English school. they’ll be given a series of paper-based tests in spelling, punctuation and grammar (Spag), reading and maths that are marked externally. Your child’s writing and speaking and listening still will also be assessed by their teacher. You will be given your child’s results, and they will also be sent on to their secondary school.

If your child is in Northern Ireland, your child will be assessed by their teacher in “Communication”, “Using Mathematics” and “Using ICT”, and the reports will be shared with you and the national database.

8. Primary 7 Assessment

At what age? 10 to 11 (P7) in Scotland only

What is it? As with the P4 Assessment, this is an online test in reading, writing and numeracy questions – with a practice paper available beforehand.

Phew! Are you ready for all that?

It does sound like a lot, especially if your child goes to school in England, but it’s worth remembering that everything that comes up in the tests and assessments will have been covered already as part of what your child is learning at school – so there should be no big surprises.

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