Primary teachers: a call to arms

The draft performance descriptors have been published a couple of weeks now, and the consultation is still open for 5 more weeks, but I’m concerned by how few responses there seem to have been.

There is a significant overhaul proposed of the current teacher assessment, that will affect every primary school up and down the country, not to mention millions of students. My personal view is that the performance descriptors are a disaster. But three weeks into the consultation, when I submitted my consultation response I got an email with identifier number 83. Surely more than 83 teachers, schools and organisations across the country must have a view on at least one of the five Yes/No questions asked?

So I urge you to take a look at the consultation document, and then respond to the consultation. There are only 5 main questions, and you don’t even need to answer them all. But please, take a look and do something.

In the interests of openness, and supporting others who feel similarly to me, here are some of the issues I have with the draft descriptors:

  • They suffer from the the adverb problem, or similar nuances of language that serve to make judgements vague and unhelpful. Take a look, for example, at these two statements and try to spot the subtle differences. It might be possible to guess which implies the more advanced writer, but could you really quantify it?

Writing demonstrates some features of the given form, as appropriate to audience, purpose and context, arising from discussion of models of writing with similar structure, vocabulary and grammar.

Writing demonstrates features of selected form, as appropriate to audience, purpose
and context, drawn from discussion of models of similar writing and the recording of
ideas from pupils’ own reading.

  • As Tim Oates’ video recently clearly explained, one of the problems with levels was a combination of three different meanings: a test score, a “best fit”, and a “just in” meaning. Although this removes the first of these, the other two remain. We have a new threshold issue.
  • Another of the problems with levels was the use of the labels for children – its almost inevitable that some (many? almost all?) schools will end up using these labels as part of a tracking system, and re-create another of the problems levels had.
  • One of the reasons for getting rid of levels was because it distracted attention from what a child can/cannot do by replacing it with a generic label. This system re-creates those problems.

Generally, these descriptors simply realise our fears of a new system of levels by another name.

Some teachers may be happy with that, and they’re entitled to say so in the consultation, but either way, surely there must be more than 82 other people who care?

Respond to the consultation

(Incidentally – if you do respond, I’d be fascinated to know what identifier number you get – perhaps post it in the comments below?)

For reference, the 5 main questions asked in the consultation are listed here. It won’t be a surprise to know that ‘No’ featured frequently in my response.

1. Do the names of the draft performance descriptors allow teachers and parents to understand the meaning of, and differentiate between, each performance descriptor?

2. Are the performance descriptors spaced effectively across the range of pupils’ performance to support accurate and consistent judgements?

3. In your opinion, are the performance descriptors clear and easy to understand?

4. In your opinion, does the content of the performance descriptors adequately reflect the national curriculum programmes of study?

5. Should any element of the performance descriptors be weighted (i.e. should any element be considered more important or less important than others?).

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33 thoughts on “Primary teachers: a call to arms

  1. suecowley 13 November 2014 at 11:10 pm Reply

    I’ve responded, but I didn’t get an email or identifier? I completed the questions online but I didn’t give my name. Maybe the numbering system doesn’t include anonymous responses? Totally agree, really important for everyone to respond to this.

    • Michael Tidd 13 November 2014 at 11:11 pm Reply

      I got my identifier by email, so presumably if you didn’t enter one you won’t get told. Even so, I’d have thought that the identifier number was exactly so they could even identify anonymous responses separately.

    • Shaz Mansha 16 November 2014 at 6:36 am Reply

      I was 157 today ….

  2. suecowley 14 November 2014 at 6:51 am Reply

    Thanks, the children definitely need as many people as possible to reply to this.

  3. Helen 14 November 2014 at 10:58 am Reply

    My response number 67. That surprised me too. I’ve recommended to my head teacher that she responds. Don’t know if she’s even read it!

  4. Prescod-Babb, N 14 November 2014 at 10:58 am Reply

    My response to consultation number is 96 – carried out on 14.11.14


  5. […] On a more serious note, to read a more intelligent evaluation of the new performance descriptors from the estimable Mr Tidd, click here. […]

  6. JE 14 November 2014 at 6:58 pm Reply

    I have just done it today, 107. Agree its really important to do it as these descriptors are awful!! Our head has shared it with all staff. I have shared on facebook.

  7. l4l1 15 November 2014 at 10:30 am Reply

    I responded on the 27th October and my identifier was 7.

  8. l4l1 15 November 2014 at 10:31 am Reply

    BTW I responded to each and every question that the whole exercise was not fit for purpose.

  9. Karen Horne 15 November 2014 at 11:21 am Reply

    I was number 125 today

  10. Sing (@_singsun) 15 November 2014 at 12:52 pm Reply


  11. robertc28 15 November 2014 at 12:56 pm Reply

    Responded today, number 131. Have shared link with the rest of the teachers in school. I did feel that some issues were avoided – eg we were asked whether the labels were clear without being asked whether the labels were appropriate (so I wrote long comments).

  12. Sarita 15 November 2014 at 3:01 pm Reply

    responded today! No. 141

  13. demurely1 (@demurely38) 15 November 2014 at 5:10 pm Reply

    Thanks for this post! I only discovered this document/consultation existed yesterday & was annoyed that I’d “missed” it. Clearly DfE has made NO effort to publicise it.
    Perhaps they’re trying to bury the levels rehash it espouses!!

  14. […] Ramblings of a Teacher    Webs of Substance    Sue Hackman […]

  15. Angela Clarke 16 November 2014 at 8:24 am Reply

    I’m a headteacher and have been anxiously awaiting information on the descriptors. How can it be that it takes a twitter feed to alert me? I am now madly sharing, posting, retweeting, and I will be responding immediately once I’ve spread the word.

  16. Airasa 16 November 2014 at 2:18 pm Reply


    • Michael Tidd 16 November 2014 at 4:15 pm Reply

      Excellent – that means one more and we’ve doubled the number of responses from the first three weeks in just 3 days!

  17. Lucy 16 November 2014 at 5:39 pm Reply

    I was responder 168 today.

  18. Miss D (@Debbie_d1) 16 November 2014 at 6:59 pm Reply

    Responded today – number 171

  19. Miss L 16 November 2014 at 8:51 pm Reply


  20. Viv 17 November 2014 at 10:12 am Reply


  21. George Constantinides 17 November 2014 at 12:38 pm Reply

    63. My response is at Thanks for your blog post on this!

  22. George Constantinides 17 November 2014 at 12:40 pm Reply

    I also sent an email to my MP via Others may want to do likewise!

  23. sarahanneken 21 November 2014 at 1:57 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on skennedy205.

  24. planetpozintandbeyond 30 November 2014 at 9:05 pm Reply

    I work in high school
    I was aware of some of this
    It sounds horrendous
    My subject is maths – I’ve always had an issue with levels, and grades (let’s teach this C grade topic but not this B grade topic). Yes there is a general scale of difficulty within maths, but it’s not an exact science
    The main reason why not many have entered into the consultation is that teachers (of any keystage are too busy with general workload
    I’m going on now to see if I am allowed to do it as a high school teacher

  25. planetpozintandbeyond 30 November 2014 at 9:34 pm Reply

    Ive told them this in the final box:
    I write as a high school teacher.
    There have always been some form of final exam eg O levels / GCSE etc fair enough!
    However I remember when I started teaching in 1991 there were 14 Attainment targets in maths for KS3 with all the various phrases which teachers were supposed to ‘tick off’
    Basically we’ve had over 2 decades of this type of thing. When are you going to accept that you cannot describe and measure subjects in this way. Once you get a bank of past exams, the statements become more meaningful but then there are all the problems with teaching to the test.
    I know that someone will have worked very hard on all these statements, and sorry I haven’t had the time to answer previous questions in this survey [there is a workload crisis remember – remember this also if you are disappointed by the number of primary respondents]
    I know that the government is obsessed with accountability and you want some way to measure things but this is not it. I have two daughters (yr3 and yr5). As a parent I know whether they are happy at school and I know what the school does. The levels I take with a pinch of salt, and so too I would take your new system. The phrase ‘below national standards’ is problematic

  26. Tom Bishop 3 December 2014 at 1:19 pm Reply

    472 today

  27. Huw Humphreys 19 December 2014 at 3:00 pm Reply

    689 at the start of the week! Still not enough. My response is at
    Be interesting to see the final number….

  28. […] Tidd, in his blog on 13 November 2014, savaged the performance descriptors saying that they were the former […]

  29. […] a lacklustre start, eventually 880 responses to the consultation were received, and the message was overwhelming. At […]

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