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National Reading and Numeracy Tests

The Minister for Education and Skills announced in his speech in February that, as part of our National Literacy Plan, we would be introducing a national reading test. We would also develop similar plans for numeracy.

Driving up standards in literacy and numeracy is vital to ensure our young people develop the skills they need to succeed. Tests will help teachers and schools identify strengths and weakness for individuals and groups of learners. They will help ensure those who need extra support are identified and supported, and help us check that our policies have the necessary impact.

The National Reading and Numeracy Tests will be implemented on a statutory basis; the first groups of learners will sit tests in May 2013.  

The tests will be ‘bespoke’; we are appointing specialists to develop and standardise tests, in both English and Welsh, that meet the needs of learners and teachers in Wales.

All learners in Years 2 to 9 will be required to sit both the reading and the numeracy test. Learners in Years 2 and 3 who are learning through the medium of Welsh will only be required to take the reading test in Welsh although schools will be able to opt to test Year 3 learners in English as well if they want to. From Year 4 Welsh language learners will sit both Welsh and English tests. There will not be a test for Welsh second language.

While it is still very early days in the development of tests there are some key principles to which we are working. Tests will:

  • support good classroom practice, learning and teaching by including diagnostic elements
  • be straightforward to administer manually
  • be suitable for administering on a group basis
  • last no longer than 60 minutes
  • be comparatively easy to mark so that they are less costly in terms of teacher time and classroom disruption.

In the interim we know that the vast majority of schools already use a wide range of tests to assess needs and progress in both reading, wider aspects of literacy and numeracy and number skills. We are working with local authority colleagues to maximize the use of reading tests this academic year on a non-statutory basis. We want all schools to administer reading tests, across Years 2 to 9 where possible, so that we do not miss any opportunity to identify early strengths and weaknesses and address them. We are not specifying which tests should be used this academic year and will not be using the data for any national comparative purposes. We will however be discussing, through local authorities, how and what we can learn from testing this year.

There will be a full consultation on the proposed reading and numeracy tests next year. It will look at issues around administration, how results might feed into annual reports to parents/carers, how data might be collected and feed into other improvement policies including Core Data Sets and banding amongst other issues.

As we work on the detailed design of the tests and their implementation we will actively seek input from colleagues across the sector. We will work to engage widely with stakeholders including parents/carers and governors and provide regular updates via the Dysg newsletter.