Published responses to the Performance Descriptors consultation

Thank you to those of you who responded to the performance descriptors consultation, particularly if you did so following reading one of my blogs. Now that the consultation is closed, we shall have to wait to see what the DfE makes of the responses, but a few organisations have already published the responses they gave. I have started to collate them here for those who are interested in the range of views presented. I have directly linked to each; the comments beneath each link are my own comments.

Cambridge Primary Review
Responds ‘No’ to every question posed, and recommends instead a single descriptor for each subject to reflect the ‘national standard’, against which teachers could decide whether a child was ‘working towards’, ‘achieving’ or ‘exceeding’

UK Literacy Association
Responds ‘No’ to every question, and shares the CPR’s view that a single descriptor would be preferable. Also picks up on the excessive number of bullet points and ambiguous use of language in the descriptors.

NAAE (National Association of Advisers in English)
Responds ‘No’ to all but one question (and ‘Not sure’ on matching the NC). Refers to the “cavalier abandonment of levels”. Also highlights the ambiguous and unclear language.

UKLA (United Kingdom Literacy Association)
Responds ‘No’ to all questions, highlights the ambiguous language, and calls for a single descriptor for each Key Stage against which students can be judged to be working towards, meeting or exceeding.

ATM/MA (Association of Teachers of Mathematics & Mathematical Association joint response)
Implies ‘No’ to all questions, and prefers a single descriptor for both key stages based on the ‘Working mathematically’ principles from the secondary curriculum.

SCORE (Science Community Representing Education)
This doesn’t use the standard form, so it’s not clear whether they’ve answered Yes or No, but the latter seems more likely in most cases. They too prefer a single descriptor option.

ASCL (Association of School & College Leaders)
Interestingly, the union for secondary school leaders is one of the few organisations I’ve found so far to answer ‘Yes’ to most questions, although even it has many caveats. It prefers 4 descriptors for all subjects at KS1 and KS2.

NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers)
The NAHT doesn’t directly answer any of the questions, leaving the subject-specific ones for others to deal with. It has a clear focus on the practical issues of implementation rather than the flaws of the principles.

Hertfordshire Learning
Responds ‘No’ to all but one question (and ‘Not sure’ on weightings) and clearly prefers a more consistent approach (suggest a below/in-line/above approach) to the subjects and key stages. Also highlights many of the unclear elements in the descriptors.

ADCS (Association of Directors of Children’s Services)
This organisation responded by email, rather than the form. It seems to focus mainly on the increased complexity of the systems, suggesting a preference for the old system of levels.

NUT (National Union of Teachers)
Responds in open prose rather than using the standard form, but is unequivocal about its dislike of the descriptors. Also proposes a single descriptor for each subject at each Key Stage.

Voice (teachers’ union)
Responds ‘No’ to all questions, highlighting the difficulties of differentiating between descriptors, and the lack of clarity in the names of descriptors.

ATL (Association of Teachers & Lecturers)
Responds in open prose rather than using the standard form, but is unequivocal about its dislike of the descriptors. Also proposes a single descriptor for each subject at each Key Stage.

Pearson Publishing
Clearly there are slightly different interests for a publisher looking to provide resources to the sector. Nevertheless, it’s worth mentioning on here, as the publisher has been very thorough in examining the myriad inconsistencies of the statements compared to the National Curriculum they’re meant to be based on.

The Association of Science Education
Although these are not published on the website (as far as I can tell), Juliet Green has kindly posted a copy of the content in the comments below.


If you have seen another published response, please let me know either in the comments below or via twitter at @michaelt1979.

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4 thoughts on “Published responses to the Performance Descriptors consultation

  1. cazzypot2013 20 December 2014 at 10:50 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. Alan 4 January 2015 at 6:39 pm Reply

    Link to Hertfordshire LA response http://www.thegrid.org.uk/learning/assessment/updates/

  3. julietgreen 4 January 2015 at 9:17 pm Reply

    I think I was the 9th respondent, or some such! My main critique was that these were not assessment criteria but descriptions of teaching objectives.

    Here also the ASE response – sorry I couldn’t find a link to it, so I’ve pasted it below:

    ASE comments on KS1 and KS2 performance descriptors – points of principle only at this stage
    We are concerned that there are different numbers and levels of draft performance descriptors for different core subjects and at different key stages. There is no obvious rationale behind this, and this will create an overly complicated situation for teachers to work within and across subjects, when making effective and consistent assessments. This is particularly the case for science which has only one performance indicator – national standard – at both KS21 and KS2, when compared with reading, writing and mathematics at KS1 (four standards including mastery) and writing at KS2 (five standards including mastery and above national standard, as well as national standard).We would like to see the national standard applied consistently as the one standard across all subjects at both key stages. In doing so, we are reminded of the purposes of assessment and the unintended consequences of the previous complex assessment system with (many) levels. It is important that we remember the lessons learned from previous assessment systems.
    Exemplification will be important to illustrate what it means to meet the national standard, as well as what it means to be working at below the national standard and at mastery levels. For science, it is particularly important to have exemplification of mastery level so that teachers can identify and support children working at or towards mastery (with opportunities to explore the curriculum in greater depth and build on the breadth of their knowledge and skills within any key stage); in the absence of the externally set and marked national curriculum test as for mathematics and reading at KS2. Without the SAT for science, it would not be easy to identify and record pupils working above the national standard, and as a result this might be interpreted as a dumbing down of science; without exemplification of mastery to support teacher assessment.
    All the content that has to be taught as a statutory requirement, in the programme of study, needs to be represented in the performance descriptors. In the draft documentation, there are some notable absences.
    We understand and are happy that the ‘working scientifically’ performance descriptors draws on statements from the (statutory) introductory text of the programme of study which is often not considered by teachers when working with the programme of study documentation. Drawing on these statements helps to provide greater clarity on what is expected from children who are working at the national standard in this area.
    Children’s ability in confidently ‘working scientifically’ is important and it would be helpful to highlight this to teachers by increasing the weighting in the performance descriptors.
    We understand and are happy that the headings and statements in the draft performance descriptors are an attempt to help teachers in understanding and providing learning opportunities around the big ideas of science, as the programme of study statements are difficult to track progressively across the years and key stages. However where possible, there should be consistency between the statements in the two documents and any variance should be explained. Additionally it would be useful for teachers when developing their own tracking systems, to provide hyperlinks, with exemplification, between the statements in the two (online) documents and to reference them using a numbering system ; based on that which is already in place for the test descriptor with the programme of study.

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