Primary Assessment changes… again!

First of all, let me say that I’m pleased that primary assessment is changing again, because it’s been a disaster in so many ways. So here is a summary of the changes at each key stage – with my thoughts about each.

Early Years Foundation Stage Profile

  • The EYFS Profile will stay, but will be updated to bring it into line with the new national curriculum and take account of current knowledge & research. I’ve never been a huge fan of the profile, but I know most EY practitioners have been, so that seems a sensible move.
  • A proposed change to reduce the number of reported Early Learning Goals to focus on prime areas and Literacy/Maths
  • The ’emerging’ band may be divided to offer greater clarity of information particularly for lower-attaining pupils.
  • An advisory panel will be set up to advise on changes to the profile and ELGs. Membership of that could be contentious

Reception Baseline

  • New Reception baseline to be introduced from 2020 (with proper trialling beforehand this time, one presumes!) to take place in the first 6 weeks of school.
  • Won’t be a ‘test’, but also won’t be observational over time. Suspect something more like the current CEM model, perhaps?
  • Will focus on literacy & numeracy, and potentially a ‘self-regulation’ element, as good predictors for attainment in KS2
  • Data won’t be used for any judgements about Reception, but will be used at cohort level to judge progress by the end of KS2.
  • The intention is for the assessment to provide some narrative formative information about children’s next steps.

Key Stage 1

  • The KS1 Grammar, Punctuation & Spelling test will remain optional.
  • Statutory Assessment will remain until at least 2023 (to allow for a year of overlap with the first cohort to be assessed using Reception baseline).
  • A new framework for Teacher Assessment of Writing has been published for this year only. Exemplification will follow this term.
  • DfE will continue to make assessments available (perhaps through an assessment bank if that ever gets off the ground!) after 2023, to help schools to benchmark attainment.
  • After 2023, tests and statutory teacher assessment will become optional for through primary schools.
  • There is more work to be done to find a system which works well for infant/junior and first/middle schools. This will be done with those in the sectors.

Key Stage 2

  • A multiplication check will be introduced at the end of Year 4. (Although, of course, whether the end means July or May remains to be seen).
  • School-level data on the multiplication check won’t be published.
  • This will be the last year that teachers have to make Teacher Assessment judgements for Reading and Maths
  • A new framework for Teacher Assessment of Writing has been published for this year only. Exemplification will follow this term.
  • DfE will continue to evaluate other options for the future, but not really committing to anything yet.
  • Small trials of peer-to-peer moderation will take place this summer.
  • Science Teacher Assessment frameworks will be updated next year.
  • The Reading test will not be timetabled for Monday of SATs week any more (hurrah!)
  • The DfE aims to link the reading content of the tests more closely to the curriculum to ensure children are drawing on their knowledge.

My thoughts

Overall, I’m pleased. Most of these changes are to be welcomed. The Reception baseline is a sensible idea (just a shame it was so badly implemented the first time round), as is scrapping KS1 assessments. The Early Years changes seem reasonable given the popularity of the current setup. The improvements to the KS2 Reading test are positive, as is the removal of pointless Teacher Assessment judgements.

On Writing, I fear we haven’t gone far enough. The current system is a joke, and it seems like the interim solution we’ll have to replace the old interim solution will just aim to make it less awful without really fixing the problem. It’s a shame that there is no obvious answer on the horizon. Perhaps the department has had its fingers burnt by rushing into quick fixes in the past and is prepared to bide its time.

In the interim, the updated expectations for Writing seem more manageable both in terms of achieving and assessing them. Of course, the devil is in the detail. If we get another exemplification book that breaks down single statements into several tick-boxes then we may be back at square one. Equally, of course, we can expect proportions of pupils meeting the expected standard to rise again substantially this year. Surely we have to be honest now and say that we really cannot use this data for accountability purposes? Mind you, perhaps it won’t matter – if we’re all getting 90% in Writing, it’ll only be the tested subjects that will make a difference to the accountability!

There are some other changes I would have liked to have seen. I really don’t think the “expected standard” label is helpful, particularly in subjects where scaled scores are used; it’s a shame we’ve not seen the back of that.

We’re not out of the woods yet. But we’re heading in the right direction, and credit is due to those at the department for listening. Let’s just hope they keep listening until we all get it right.

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15 thoughts on “Primary Assessment changes… again!

  1. Julia Andrew 14 September 2017 at 9:13 pm Reply

    Thank you Michael, I wish I’d seen your summary before I read the 41 page document published earlier today. Your comments are extremely well-judged – as always.

  2. ks1blog 14 September 2017 at 9:53 pm Reply

    Thanks for the summary.

  3. Tom Burkard 15 September 2017 at 12:56 am Reply

    Sorry, but this seems like a cave-in to all the worst elements in primary education. Once again, there seems to be no appetite for any kind of objective tests. In other words, if your child fails to learn essential skills needed to progress to KS3, lazy and incompetent teachers will still be able to fudge their way through, and secondary school teachers will still know that assessments of their intakes is wildly optimistic and most will repeat the whole process over again.

    However, like the previous comments, I am grateful for your efforts to translate DfE speak into plain English. The documents are still sitting unread in my inbox–I just couldn’t face them.

    • Michael Tidd 15 September 2017 at 6:09 am Reply

      What in particular are you concerned about? The KS2 tests remain statutory. Would you have wanted to see a Writing test added?

      • Tom Burkard 15 September 2017 at 8:58 am Reply

        Annual tests are essential. Although the KS2 tests have been improved considerably, too many pupils are scoring way below what they should be. Subjective teacher assessments are both time-consuming and meaningless–I reckon that it’s corrupt and immoral to ask teachers to make assessments which in effect are judgments of their own performance. They allow children to progress through the system with massive deficits in the most basic skills–with what we now know about working memory and cognitive load, this is inexcusable. Many secondary teachers are still very concerned that many pupils arrive virtually bereft of meaningful skills in maths and science, and too many have very poor spelling skills. For instance, a teacher who tested KS3 pupils for automatic recall of number bonds for addition and multiplication found that even in the higher sets, no more than 15% of the pupils were fully fluent in both, and the great majority were still totally reliant on counting or calculating strategies.

        Two recommendations we made for the Bew were the use of CATs, which was also recommended by CEM, and KS2 tests to be administered in Year 7, These would eliminate most of the negative effects of KS2 testing, but they would also leave a lot of primary schools dreadfully exposed–which is why they aren’t likely to be introduced any time soon.

        • West Head 15 September 2017 at 10:02 am
        • Tom Burkard 15 September 2017 at 2:02 pm

          West Head–STEM subjects are not the strong point in many primary schools. In 2008 Sir Peter Williams rejected raising the bar to a B grade in GCSE Maths for candidates to teach in primary schools on the grounds that it would lead to a teacher shortage.

          In these subjects, the curriculum is fairly well defined, and in theory it should be little trouble to ensure that basics were consolidated in primary school. Sadly, consolidation of learning involves using a well-structured curriculum and systematic testing. Were this the rule in primary schools, there would be no need to worry about retaining learning in the six-week gap between primary and secondary schools. The Ofsted report you cite has very little to say about this, or indeed about STEM subjects.

        • NeM 26 September 2017 at 5:01 pm

          The problem is that if you have a system that doesn’t have specialist maths teachers, for example, the teachers will need support with the structuring of the curriculum. It doesn’t make sense for the DfE to champion teacher/school autonomy in such circumstances. The 2014 curriculum needs to be augmented with the careful structuring of the material and training for teachers to understand the reasons behind the structure.

  4. Richard Potter 15 September 2017 at 7:48 am Reply

    Leaving aside the KS1 and KS2 issues – my main one is the key feature of ensuring this new system works for the infant/junior split schools. It’s teh EYFS framework that would bother me. I know those such as James Pembroke would love to see definitive descriptors and numerical outcomes for a set, prescribed few areas of the curriculum (and yes, I agree it makes sense in a statiscal analysis way)….I do worry that we would be limiting the overview of our children on entry to education. I’d hate to see the framework reduced to 5 areas. Having a balanced overview between their social and physical development as well as the academic reading, writing and maths really does help to pick up early signs of impairments and the like. I do hope this set of changes is done sensibly!

  5. Jennifer Clarke 15 September 2017 at 11:13 am Reply

    The unknown for the future of junior schools is a real worry. An imbalanced focus on primary accountability.

  6. […] We at MagiKats HQ always enjoy reading posts from teacher and blogger Michael Tidd. He has provided a useful summary (and his initial thoughts) on the changes announced for primary education (thank you Michael): https://michaelt1979.wordpress.com/2017/09/14/primary-assessment-changes-again/ […]

  7. mroberts1990 15 September 2017 at 9:24 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Teacher Voice.

  8. Sandy Cameron 17 September 2017 at 7:31 am Reply

    How is it right to formally assess 4/5 year olds twice?
    Lord Bew recommended parity between tests and teacher assessments – how is it right to remove KS2 teacher assessment in maths and reading now?
    And if the ‘burden of assessment’ is to be reduced, how is it right to introduce a tables test in Y4?

  9. Jane Pierce 17 September 2017 at 1:31 pm Reply

    Sandy Cameron,

    I would be interested to know which year you teach?

    From the view point of a Y6 teacher who, has never been allowed to leave Y6 as we have good results.

    1. If there is to be a measurement of progress from age 4 to attainment in SATs at end of Y6, how can there NOT be rigorous formal assessment at age 4 (we all know what a waste of time teacher assessment is even with moderation in its very latest form)

    2. Agree

    3. I don’t know about other parts of the country, but in our county, this week, there seems to a inundation of Y6 Jobs: maternity covers, sharing a class to reduce Y6 class size, two even saythat the teacher has ‘resigned’ – this is the second week of the autumn term. If the government are going to introduce another test – Y4 is a perfect place and quite frankly will mean that Y3 and Y4 teachers will have to have some accountability.

    Beginning Reception – baseline
    Y1 – phonics check
    Y4 – times tables check
    End of Y6 – SATs

    I know where I would least like to teach – I cannot understand how the higher authorities at county and national level cannot realise that we have a crisis in school and that Y6 teachers are forced to make children ‘progress’ in their final year at Primary School due to the lack of accountability in the rest of the school.

    • Sandy Cameron 18 September 2017 at 4:44 pm Reply

      Hi Jane. I don’t teach any longer as I work as an adviser in a local authority.

      1. The emphasis in my question was on ‘twice’. This government, like its predecessors, is grappling with the problem of wanting an assessment system that does several things simultaneously. If progress must be measured (for accountability purposes so we can know which schools are giving the tax-payer value for money) you are right that there needs to be a start and end point for a progress measure. But what is proposed is a baseline assessment for accountability purposes and the continuation of the EYFS Profile for more diagnostic, child-and parent-focused purposes.

      I don’t agree that teacher assessment is a waste of time, but it is questionable whether such assessment can support the levels of analysis that have been extrapolated using it – especially measuring progress from Y2 to Y6. Note that teacher assessment in writing is to be retained (for now) so it’s not wholly unacceptable to the government.
      2. Glad we agree
      3. I’ve no objection to Y4 as the year to do a tables check. My question is about whether it is needed at all.

      I agree that in many schools, there is higher pressure on the Y6 teacher to accelerate learning and attainment. Alas, it’s also true that many schools have stronger and weaker teachers and heads have to make decisions about how best to deploy them to maximise impact. I’m sorry you’ve never been allowed to leave Y6!

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