Key stage 2 tests are administered in English and mathematics in May at the end of year 6, i.e. the end of primary schooling. Students sit the maths test over two days, completing a mental maths paper, a calculator paper, and a non-calculator paper. The maths test contains a mixture of open response (short answer) questions, and closed response questions (including multiple choice) to measure students’ problem-solving, reasoning and mathematical communication skills in number and algebra, geometry and measures, and statistics and probability. The test is developed by a Government body, with the support of external contractors, according to a regulatory framework which describes the nature of the test and how many marks are assigned to each level and each aspect of the national curriculum. The test is marked by expert markers external to the schools, who are trained at national level. School-level summaries, reproduced in performance tables, are used to monitor the effectiveness of schools and to support school inspections.
As a new national curriculum will be rolled out for first teaching during Autumn 2014, there will be changes to the tests from Summer 2016, reflecting, for example, a stronger emphasis on arithmetic. The test-based accountability measures are also in a state of flux as the floor standards are set to rise from 2014. Schools will face an increase in the percentage of students expected to perform at level 4 in all the tested subjects (from 60 to 65%). Additionally, schools will have to meet progress measures which include the progression by two levels in all subjects (including mathematics) compared to the England median1. The accountability measures will change in subsequent years, particularly when national curriculum levels are abandoned in 2016, and following the outcome of a consultation on accountability measures, (launched on 17 July 2013) which will have implications for the educational landscape, and a potential impact on teaching, learning and assessment in primary schools.