Consultation begins on changes to primary assessment

Scrapping tests for seven-year-olds is one option, but questions remain about the high-stakes tests for 11-year-olds

CREDIT: This story was first seen in TES

Tests for six and seven-year-olds could be scrapped under government proposals announced today, TES reports.

The proposal is for schools to be provided with test materials at key stage 1 to help benchmark their pupils in reading, writing, maths and science, and for the government to sample schools that administered the tests.

The proposals also include consulting on improving the early years foundation stage profile, which is a teacher assessment of pupils at the end of reception year, and introducing a “teacher-mediated” assessment in reception to act as a starting point, or baseline, for school progress measures.

The government will also consider whether there should be greater flexibility for teachers to use their judgement to assess pupils’ ability in writing.

The current system means that in the key stage 2 writing assessments – a child who has reached 17 out of 18 criteria may not be classed as working at the expected standard.

Justine Greening, education secretary, said: “The government has reformed the primary school system to make sure children can master the basics of literacy and numeracy so they get the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in later life.

“Now we want to build on that by developing a stable assessment system that helps children learn, while freeing up teachers to do what they do best – supporting children to fulfil their potential.”

Ms Greening announced in October 2016, that plans for Year 7 resits were being scrapped, and that a consultation on longer-term changes to primary assessment would begin this year.

The announcement came after a chaotic summer which ended in unions threatened to boycott this year’s SATs unless changes were put in motion.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, said “good progress” had been made.

“The consultation proposes replacing the Key Stage 1 SATs with a properly designed assessment in reception in order to create a baseline for a progress measure. NAHT support this approach as long as this is not a high stakes assessment for pupil or school. It could more fairly reflect the challenges faced by different schools. And it is possible to design it to avoid predicting or tracking individual pupil performance from such a young age.”

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Last year, the new reading test which left children in tears, there were concerns that the “secure fit” nature of the new writing assessments would penalise dyslexic children, and that moderation of writing by local authorities was so variable that the unions argued the results were “not robust” and the government later confirmed that no decisions on intervention would be made on the basis of 2016 data alone.

And an inquiry into the Standards and Testing Agency, launched after two leaks of SATs papers, uncovered “substantial issues” at the agency.

The NAHT launched its own review into primary assessment, which reported earlier this year, and also recommended that the key stage 1 SATs were scrapped and a reception baseline assessment introduced instead.

The changes last year were some of the biggest reforms to primary assessment  in the past 25 years.

The reading, maths and Spag tests were made harder to match the increased demand in the new curriculum and instead of being given a level, children were given a score. They were also told whether they were at the expected standard, working at greater depth within the expected standard or had failed to meet the expected standard.

Just 53% of pupils reached the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in 2016. In the previous year, 80% of pupils had reached what was then the expected level 4 in reading, writing and maths.

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