DfE Consultation: Primary Assessment

Glyn Barritt, SSAT Learning Technologies Coordinator, writes…

On 20 July 2013 the Department for Education launched its consultation on Primary Assessment and Acccountability under the new Curriculum. Media headlines focused on the national ranking of primary school children through decentile banding, putting all 11 year olds into one of ten bands, according to their results in assessments at the end of key stage two. SSAT’s network of primary schools has misgivings about this element of the Government’s proposals but agrees wholeheartedly with the sentiment expressed by the Deputy Prime Minister at the launch of the consultation when he spoke about high aspirations for children. Importantly SSAT’s schools also recognise the importance of research and evidence which demonstrates that it is the combination of high aspirations with support structures that leads to raising standards for all.

This focus on high aspiration combined with professional support lies at the heart of SSAT’s networks of schools – providing high quality professional development for the very people who are making the biggest difference to children’s lives: the teachers.

SSAT agree with the key principles of the consultation; that ongoing assessment should be left to schools, that progress should be given at least as much weight as attainment, that a range of information should be available to parents about their child and school, and that both formative and summative assessment are important.

There are many elements to the consultation, including:

  • changing the Early Years Foundation Stage profile to non-statutory, whilst at the same time introducing formal assessment early in Reception upon which to form an accountability baseline for progression across Early Years and key stage one;
  • removing national curriculum levels and at the same time encouraging schools to adopt their own approaches to formative assessment and progression tracking;
  • more ambitious expectations and content for the new national curriculum tests – replacing those at the end of key stages 1 and 2;
  • reporting of national curriculum test results using scaled scores; comparing children against the national cohort by decile and by comparison to children who had similar prior attainment;
  • raising of floor standard from 65% to 85%, publishing both attainment and value-added progress measures;
  • aligning the assessment framework with the school curriculum, as designed by the school itself.

Specifically, schools are expected to have a curriculum and assessment framework which;

  • sets out steps for children to reach or exceed expectations in the new national curriculum;
  • measures whether children are on track to meet expectations;
  • enables pinpointing of children who are falling behind or performing exceptionally well;
  • supports teacher planning;
  • enables regular reporting to parents and, where children move schools, identifies strengths, weaknesses and progress.

The pressure on teachers to ‘deliver’ has never been more intense. Somehow, for all the leaps that have been made in education in the past twenty years, schools are being asked by all of us – employers, parents, policy makers, students themselves – to dig even deeper.

SSAT has always believed that teachers make students’ lives. Our mission is to help them to carry out this vital job even better, more confidently and more professionally than before.

Thus, we welcome the opportunity to contribute to the DfE consultation on Primary Assessment and Accountability under the new Curriculum. Throughout this year our member schools have been engaging in lively debate on these very themes of Curriculum, Assessment and Intelligent Accountability through our Redesigning Schooling campaign, along with leading educational thinkers and academics including Tim Oates, Dylan William, Christine Gilbert, Guy Claxton, Bill Lucas and Andy Hargreaves.

These are issues with which we are familiar and for which we have professional, positive and purposeful recommendations.

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2 July 2013

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21 August 2013