‘I had to relearn grammar rules in order to teach them’ – one leading head on the new Sats

Jane Austen did not need to worry about transient verbs, the school leader argues as she calls for a review of primary assessment

A leading headteacher has complained that she had to reteach herself grammar rules that are “too difficult for children to understand” in order to prepare pupils for this year’s key stage 2 Sats.

Amanda Hulme, headteacher of Claypool Primary School in Bolton and a member of the NAHT headteachers’ union executive, said teachers were spending as much as two hours planning individual lessons on KS2 grammar.

The primary headteacher, who has 23 years of teaching experience, admitted: “I have a degree in English language and there were a number of questions that I couldn’t answer. I can now answer them but I have had to relearn.”

Concepts ‘too difficult’

Speaking to the media on the first day of the NAHT annual conference today, Ms Hulme added: “I have always taught grammar in school but it took me two hours to plan a 30-minute lesson earlier this week on past perfect tense and present perfect test.

“They are concepts that are really difficult for children to understand.”

Ms Hulme stressed that Year 6 children have always been taught about grammar – but now they had to know about modal, transient and intransient verbs.

“I am sure Jane Austen didn’t need to worry about that when she was writing one of her novels. I have managed to get by for 23 years without knowing what a transient verb is,” she added.

Ms Hulme is proposing a conference motion calling for a review of primary assessment this weekend.

‘Catch-up work’

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of NAHT, stressed that there was going to be some “catch-up work” as the current Year 6 children were being tested on things they were not taught further down in school.

He added: “And nobody is entirely sure what these tests will be used for as well. There is no real clarity.

“The problem we face at the moment is we don’t know where the standard is within that content. It feels like you are being treated as guinea pigs in a new system. People wouldn’t mind that even if so much weight wasn’t put on it as a result.

“They should have recognised that it was a trial year and we were all venturing into the unknown. To try and still apply the same sort of pressure on people for the results I think has produced very poor outcomes.”

Find out how shadow education secretary Lucy Powell, former schools minister Jim Knight and secondary maths and English teachers fared when they completed the KS2 assessments – only in this week’s TES magazine

Could you pass the KS2 assessments? Challenge yourself by attempting these sample questions from English and maths tests

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