Understanding age-related expectations

Age-related expectations identify what is expected of a pupil by a specified age or year group. In the national curriculum, there is a set standard of expectation which is defined by threshold descriptors indicating what a pupil should be able to do by the end of key stage 2.

As the government does not publish expected standards for other year groups across key stage 1 and 2, NFER has developed its own age-related expectations for its summer reading and mathematics tests. These are designed to help teachers identify whether pupils in Years 1-5 have achieved the standard on the national curriculum which is appropriate for their year group, by the time they have taken the test.

NFER’s age-related expectations have been developed by undertaking a rigorous standard setting process with assessment experts and a diverse group of experienced teachers in order to agree the thresholds. Age-related expectations have been established for NFER’s summer tests only because it is at this point that pupils can be expected to have been taught the national curriculum content for that year group.

Instead, NFER’s autumn and spring assessments make allowances for the fact that pupils have not studied the full curriculum for the current school year. For example, the mathematics tests cover a small proportion of content from the curriculum of the previous year with the majority of content from the current year’s curriculum. For reading, some of the texts included are not as demanding. This ensures that there are questions which all pupils feel confident they can attempt; however there are still questions that challenge the more able pupils and allow them to demonstrate their ability. The autumn and spring tests provide both standardised and age-standardised scores so attainment is still measured.

Used in conjunction with the summer tests, the autumn and spring tests are intended to aid the monitoring of attainment and progress within the school year and to build up a profile of performance across the primary years (the spring materials also include analysis of common errors and teaching points). In many cases progress will be as expected – children will maintain their position relative to the national average. Others may make small incremental steps of progress improving their relative position whereas others may slip backwards – these are the children that you may wish to then monitor more carefully in the following year.

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