We need to broaden the debate around primary assessment

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31 March 2017 by Anne Heavey
Yesterday, the government finally published its long-awaited consultation on primary assessment. There is a lot in there and I fully recommend everyone with an interest in the topic reads the document in its entirety and responds.
Primary school girl leaning on books bored

You can see the primary assessment consultation on the .Gov website. Even though there are some positive proposals, such as the long-term suggestion that key stage 1 SATs could be removed and that writing assessments could move to a best-fit model, we've noticed there are a few things missing.

Here are some questions I would have liked to see included:

  1. Does the current system give teachers and parents useful information about pupil learning?
  2. What impact does the assessment and accountability regime have on the school curriculum?
  3. Do the current assessments support the transition into secondary school?
  4. Is the phonics screening check necessary?
  5. Is it necessary to introduce a multiplication check?
  6. How could the tests, first sat in May 2016, be improved?
  7. Does the assessment and accountability system have an impact on pupil and school staff wellbeing?
  8. Does the new progress measure work as intended?
  9. Should the DfE explore introducing more sample assessment instead of whole cohort assessment?
  10. Are there any alternative school accountability approaches which could perform better than the model used in England?

Rumbling alongside the primary assessment issue is the controversial plan to expand selection across the system. It was reported in schoolsweek that ministers are considering introducing a new national 11 plus – why is no mention of this plan made in the consultation?

The consultation document seems to suggest that the current system is almost perfect, and simply requires some tinkering around the edges - a simple move from “good” to “outstanding”. From our perspective, the situation is very different.

In her forward Justine Greening states:

It is important that we have a proper, considered debate around these proposals so that we can move forwards to a stable, trusted primary assessment system which delivers strong educational outcomes for all children, regardless of their background, ability or any additional needs they may have. I want a system that measures the progress that children make throughout their time at primary school fairly and accurately, a system that recognises teachers’ professionalism in assessing their pupils, and a system which does not impose a disproportionate burden.

This sounds great, but to achieve these aims we need to broaden the debate - and that's hard when the consultation is so narrowly focussed. Nonetheless, ATL will work with members over the coming weeks and months are we prepare our response.    

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