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Statutory assessment consultation - have your say

Tuesday, 2 May 2017
There is an opportunity for teachers to influence future statutory assessment in primary schools. The Department for Education and the Standards Testing Agency are asking for your views about assessment, the best starting point for measuring progress and the role of teacher assessment. A cross-party Education Select Committee report, published last week, suggests that current testing is having a negative impact on children’s education and well-being. So, while testing happens in schools this month, keep up to date with current findings around assessment and have your say. 

Primary assessment in England
Government consulation

The specific areas the Department for Education wish to focus on are:
•  the best starting point to measure the progress that pupils make at primary school, which may include baseline assessment in the Reception year.

•  the role and operation of teacher assessment

•  how to build on the strengths of the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile

•  how we can support and improve end-of-key-stage teacher assessment, including the assessment of writing

The consulation has limitations

Although we should welcome the opportunity for teachers, school, parents and governors to be consulted on future assessment in primary schools, the questions are very limited around the new proposals with few opportunities to provide alternatives and changes. 

There is an assumption within the foreword and introduction that statutory assessment of primary aged children is a good thing and a view that testing delivers strong educational outcomes for children. I do not believe testing necessarily improves children’s education - only good teaching has an impact on learning. 

You can only comment on issues around assessment that the government have chosen. So, for example, you will not be able to challenge the need for statutory testing of primary children or other ideas you have, unless they happen to be the focus of this consultation.

The introduction of having a national times tables test is a perfect example of the limited comments you can contribute.

The preamble focuses on the importance of the learning of multiplications tables. Most teachers will agree times tables are important, but so are number bonds and many other aspects of maths not included as an isolated part of a national test.

There is no doubt that fluency in maths is essential in supporting the solving of more complex mathematics problems - but why does it need to be tested nationally? 
It does make you think what the real purpose of this test will be.

The results will be available for teachers to help 'identify pupils who have not yet learnt all their times tables'. The check will not be used as a school accountability measure or to trigger inspection or any school intervention.The results will only be published at a national and local authority level. 

I can see no educational value in this test, the only thing it will provide is data for newspaper headlines. 
Even though the online tests may be fairly informal, children will know they are taking tests. I believe this will be stressful for children, and for what gain? There will be a financial cost too, again that money could be better spent in schools. 

The consultation says that the proposed times table check will be able to identify those children who may need extra support. I don't think a national test is going to tell any primary school teacher anything they don't already know about the knowledge and ability to recall times tables facts of every child in their class.

However, the consulation only asks :

Q13. At what point in key stage 2 do you think the multiplication tables check should be administered?
Please explain the basis for your views.
a) At the end of year 4
b) During year 5
c) During year 6

By answering this question and choosing the best time, I would be effectively giving my approval of a national times tables test. 

There are boxes for comments on the online consultation form, or your can reply by email, so it is important that teachers give thier views - and any concerns that may not be directly addressed in these specfic questions. 
assess consult

Education Select Committee
Primary assessment inquiry

Back in October teachers and schools were asked for their views on the impact on teaching and learning of assessment and the recent changes to assessment introduced last May.

This cross-party committee have now published their report and it seems to reflect some key areas of concern in primary assessment. It is well worth a read.

One of the key aspects they noted was that the end of KS2 tests were so closely bound to measuring school performance that the tests became too 'high-stakes' for schools. This led to a narrowing of the curriculum in favour of spending more time on English and maths so that children did well in those tests.

Select Committee recommendations:

• Performance tables should include a "rolling three year average of Key Stage 2 results instead of results from a single cohort." Much of the negative effects of testing centred on the system of using the data to hold schools to account and the effect of yearly variances.

• Although the committee welcomes the change of focus onto progress in performance, they suggest that there should be "a thorough evaluation of potentially harmful consequences of introducing any baseline measure". 

• The committee recommends that Ofsted rely less on Key Stage 2 data to inform their judgments and more on observations. They even suggest a pilot in which data only be considered after inspection. Also Ofsted should report on a broad and balanced curriculum, which could influence teachers to teach less 'to the test'. 

Other suggestions included longer lead in times when introducing changes and additional support and training on effective assessment.
Further reading

11th report - Primary Assessment, published 1 May 2017
Parliamentary Education Select Committiee findings

Primary Assessment  in England

Government consultation  30 March 2017 - 22 June 2017

Primary Assessment Consultation Hub
Give your views in this online survey.
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