Sats spelling test was on practice paper

Apr 20, 2016 by

A Sats spelling test due to be taken by half a million seven-year-olds in England next month was accidentally published as a sample test months ago.

The error was discovered when a school running an official trial of the new national spelling test saw that pupils recognised all the words being tested.

Teachers then found the exact same test was among practice papers on the Department for Education (DfE) website.

The government said it was a “serious error” and was investigating.

Around half a million of the test papers are already with schools, in sealed envelopes, in preparation for Sats tests in the first week of May.

Tests and assessments are taken by every seven-year-old and every 11-year-old in the country, and the results are used to hold schools to account.

However, the spelling and grammar test results are not used to rank the schools.

The DfE publishes sample papers via its website and schools – or parents – are free to use them to help their children gain useful practice in the run-up to the tests.


A school in south-east England, which did not wish to be identified, was one of a number taking part in a trial of the new paper.

The teacher who spotted the error, Charlotte Smiles, said: “One of the children who was sitting the spelling test that we were giving them kept saying ‘I know this one, and this one’. He appeared to know what was coming next.

“One of the teachers asked him if he had seen this test before and he answered in a bit of a coy way.

“Because of the way this child was behaving, I went and checked on the DfE website and I found this exact test published as a sample paper.

“It’s actually been there since January 26.”

She said the DfE finally admitted the error after a number of telephone calls.

She added that there would not be enough time to rewrite the papers.

‘Deeply regrettable’

Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, told the BBC: “This is a serious error that has compromised the integrity of the spelling, punctuation and grammar tests for Key Stage 1 children this year.

“As things stand, these tests can have little value because there is no way to know how many children will have already used this test for practice.”

The DfE said it had now removed the sample paper from the website. It stressed that the results of this test were not collected nationally but said it was “deeply regrettable it had happened”.

It added: “Fortunately, this is a Key Stage 1 test which is provided to schools to support teacher assessment judgements.

“We ask if anyone has seen the material that they do not share it further so the test remains helpful for those teachers who have to yet use it with their pupils.”

Source: Sats spelling test was on practice paper – BBC News

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.