Primary Assessment: Need to Know

Apparently some people out there are not as avidly gripped when a new government document appears tucked away somewhere on the GOV.UK website. Indeed, some teachers might even deliberately avoid such things. And their blood pressure readings are probably all the better for it.

Nevertheless, there are some important nuggets of information hidden in among the irritation, and so while I of course recommend reading all the bumph in full, here are some key points that teachers might find useful.

(An article which was delightfully described by my other half as “Assessment for dummies”; I hope that no-one finds it as patronising as that might suggest!)

Classroom Assessment

The Assessment Commission reported this week, giving its advice for how schools should manage assessment during day-to-day and term-to-term activity. I’ve highlighted some particular paragraphs of interest, but the gist of the report is that schools shouldn’t be assessing for Ofsted, and that they need to move their focus away from summative levelled, banded, graded assessments, and focus more thoroughly on what children can and can’t do.

Notably the report also has key information from Ofsted, stating that inspectors will not expect to see any particular form or regularity of data collection. Indeed, the report advises against anything more than termly data collection/analysis, and makes clear that inspectors will focus as much on books, observations and conversations as they will on any data that’s available. Of course, it remains to be seen how inspectors act on this in practice.

If your school has bought in one of the awful electronic systems that requires millions of tick-boxes, or expects children to make x points of progress each term/year, then I strongly recommend reading the full report – or better still passing it to your headteacher.

Key Stage Tests

We know now the broad structure of the tests, and their general content. We’ve seen some new tests added, and some changes, including:

  • New Grammar & punctuation test at KS1
  • Changes to how the reading test works at KS1
  • New Written Arithmetic tests at KS1 and KS2
  • No mental maths test at KS2
  • No Level 3 / Level 6 “extension” papers

I’ve written in more detail about the changes in each Key Stage in my articles for the Rising Stars blog here:

  • Changes to the National Tests and what you need to know – Key Stage 1
  • Changes to the National Tests and what you need to know – Key Stage 2

The results of the tests will be as scaled scores, with children who reach the threshold score for the “expected standard” being given a scaled score of 100. There will be some indication of a ‘higher’ standard (presumably simply marking those children who reach a certain higher score). None of the thresholds will be known until after the first round of tests in 2016.

Samples of the test paper style and level of challenge are available from the DfE website.

Teacher Assessment

The final part of the triad is the role of statutory Teacher Assessment. With levels gone, it has taken some considerable time for the department to come up with a suitable replacement, and even now it has only managed to cobble together a temporary solution for this year. (A cynic might wonder if they’ll just give up after that and stop bothering collecting teacher assessment data at all)

ks2 readingTwo documents published this week set out the replacements for levels in the core subjects for teachers to use. They are expressly only for use at the end of Year 2 and Year 6. For each subject they set out a short list of bullet points, listing the criteria that children must meet to be judged as “working at the expected standard” (see the KS2 reading example, right). Note that these are threshold expectations, not ‘best fit’ criteria. It’s not clear that there’s been much joined up thinking with the test results, and the criteria are rather brief really. Expect “exemplification materials” later in the academic year – although who knows how close to the wire it’ll be before we actually see anything!

For KS1 Reading, Writing and Maths, and for Writing at KS2, there are also descriptors that set out a band of attainment for lower attainers called “working towards the expected standard”, and also for more confident pupils, entitled “Working at greater depth within the expected standard” (snappily captioned WagDuties by @hayleyearl). Mercifully the ‘mastery’ label has gone!

The documents are at least relatively brief reading at 10-11 pages each (although surprisingly Science has the longest descriptor) and can be found here:

Don’t learn it by heart though – it’ll all be redundant by this time next year, as we wait again for information.

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14 thoughts on “Primary Assessment: Need to Know

  1. cazzypot2013 18 September 2015 at 7:12 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. @jcg812 18 September 2015 at 9:12 pm Reply

    I was also surprised how much longer the science was. There seemed to be an inference that teachers shouldn’t only teach the tested content , rather the broader curriculum – as if! Mmm let’s think…

  3. Anna Clark 19 September 2015 at 10:30 am Reply

    So my query is…with the writing TA, what happens if a child does not meet one part of the criteria (e.g. spelling ) does that therefore mean they cannot meet expectations? Anyone any clue how this works?

    • Michael Tidd 19 September 2015 at 12:01 pm Reply

      That’s my interpretation of the guidance, yes.
      It’s all or nothing.

  4. Clare Sealy 19 September 2015 at 12:01 pm Reply

    Yes- that’s exactly what it means- fail one bit – fail it all. I don’t understand why there hasn’t mean a massive reaction to the handwriting element to this by the profession as it is so discriminatory. Yes if you can’t physically write well ( or at all) because you are dyspraxia, use Braille, have cerebral palsy, have no arms etc….. While the teacher can waive the handwriting requirement and describe you as at the expected level- they cannot describe you as being at the ‘higher than expected level’ ( let’s call in yr2+ or yr6+) – however brilliant the rest of your writing is. So Stephen Hawkins ‘Brief history of time’ presumably is not good enough to achieve year 2 level because he can’t form his letters correctly. Ditto severely dyslexic pupils- will never be able to get beyond year 1 level however brilliant everything else is. Can’t believe this is legal surely it must break disability discrimination laws? Can’t see why no one else is making a fuss? Really really hope I’ve read this incorrectly but that does seem to be what it says.

    • Michael Tidd 19 September 2015 at 12:03 pm Reply

      Disabilities legislation would mean that reasonable adjustments will have to be part of the supporting processes and exemplification documentation

  5. JdV 19 September 2015 at 1:07 pm Reply

    Thanks for a really useful post Michael. I totally agree with Clare about the writing discrimination. It’s already virtually impossible for dyslexic pupils to do well in the Grammar test and now they are being disadvantaged in the assessment of their writing as well. It seems so unfair.

  6. ks1blog 19 September 2015 at 8:17 pm Reply

    Thanks as usual for your informative post🙂

  7. ks1blog 19 September 2015 at 8:18 pm Reply
  8. Clare Sealy 19 September 2015 at 10:18 pm Reply

    Actually have re read the writing stuff slowly and it is not as bad as my hasty speed reading first made it seems. For Pupils who physically cannot write you can discount the handwriting criterion. It’s ‘only’ pupils who can physically write but don’t meet the standard that are prevented from getting the higher level. So Braille users and pupils with missing Limbs etc are ok. Still not sure how that affects those that just about can write- but with very poor control eg someone with cerebral palsy- banned form getting the higher level? Or dyslexic children- they can write but may find it impossible to do so with control. Can the requirement be discounted or not?

  9. Kate Cameron 20 September 2015 at 8:25 pm Reply

    Thanks for this – I was wondering if I’d missed the criteria for teacher assessment (presumably these are the new Performance Descriptors which were published in draft for consultation last October? I did catch the report from the assessment commission.. note it called itself ‘final’. Does that imply there have been earlier reports from them as Googling doesn’t turn anything else up. You’ve summarised the key bits, but let’s face it there aren’t many. I gave it my chair of governors (who will probably find it more useful in terms of getting his head around the mindset shift away from levels). It might have been useful to me 6 months ago, but to be honest, the boat called ‘helpful guidance for making up your own assessment system’ has largely sailed…

  10. Debbie Hepplewhite (@debbiehepp) 21 September 2015 at 12:12 am Reply

    Thanks for the summary of information, Michael, have flagged it up here:

    http://www.phonicsinternational.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=929

  11. George Constantinides 21 September 2015 at 2:27 pm Reply

    My view of the commission report, in particular issues relating to high attaining pupils. http://constantinides.net/2015/09/20/assessment-of-primary-school-children-in-england/

  12. Lisa Graham 15 November 2015 at 7:20 pm Reply

    Thanks Michael, I’ve passed on your info to colleagues. Initially the reading speed of 90 words per minute seemed harsh – but have since recorded a Y2 pupil and actually it seems quite fair. I’m particularly outraged though, by the rule of not allowing equipment in the maths paper in KS1!

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