Proposals to create a long-term, stable and proportionate system for assessing children at primary school have been announced today (Thursday 30 March) by Education Secretary Justine Greening.

The plans are aimed at helping give children the skills and knowledge they need to succeed while reducing the burden on teachers and schools.

A consultation will seek views on a number of proposals, including the best way to measure schools on the progress children make during their primary education.

Today’s move follows an announcement made by the Education Secretary in October last year, which set out an ambition for a primary assessment system that supports each child in reaching their potential and reducing burdens for teachers while continuing to hold schools to account in a fair way. The government has engaged teaching unions on the proposals, which are out for consultation for 12 weeks.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said:

The government has reformed the primary school system to make sure children can master the basics of literacy and numeracy so they get the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in later life.

Now we want to build on that by developing a stable assessment system that helps children learn, while freeing up teachers to do what they do best – supporting children to fulfil their potential.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

This consultation is the result of months of detailed talks with the Department for Education. We appreciate the engagement of the Secretary of State with the concerns of school leaders.

The government has listened to many of the principles and recommendations contained in NAHT’s independent Assessment Review Group Report. There’s more to be accomplished but we’ve made good progress from where we were a year ago.

The consultation proposes:

  • improvements to the early years foundation stage profile – consulting on how to make improvements and reduce burdens to the existing assessments on children’s readiness to start school at the end of their early education
  • bringing forward the starting point for school progress measures during primary education – through the introduction of a new teacher-mediated assessment in reception, developed with the profession, to ensure schools are measured on how they support every child throughout primary school
  • reviewing the statutory status of key stage 1 (KS1) assessment – to reduce the burden of statutory assessment for teachers and pupils, the government will consult on making assessments at the end of KS1 – both teacher assessment frameworks and national curriculum tests – in English reading, English writing, mathematics and science non-statutory once the new assessment in reception is fully established. Under these proposals, schools will still be provided with test materials at KS1 to help them benchmark their pupils and inform parents. The government would continue to ensure academic standards remain high by sampling from schools that administered the tests.
  • reducing the burdens of teacher assessment – reducing the burdens on teachers by removing the requirement to submit teacher assessments where the assessment is not used in the accountability of schools. The government is also considering whether there should be greater flexibility for teachers to use their judgement to assess pupils’ ability in writing.

The government has also launched a parallel consultation on the recommendations of the independent Rochford Review, to look at how the school assessment system successfully tracks the progress of children of all abilities.

These proposals will ensure there is a suitable level of assessment for children working below the standard of the national curriculum tests. This is a diverse group of children – a high proportion have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), some are from disadvantaged backgrounds and some have English as an additional language.

The consultation seeks to find a solution which supports these children to progress on to the mainstream forms of assessment during primary school, if and when they are ready. This will ensure no child is left behind. Schools will then be recognised for the progress they make with all their pupils, regardless of whether they are high, middle or low attainers, and ensuring a child’s background does not hold them back from fulfilling their potential.

Notes to editors

  1. Changes to this year’s tests – following last year’s tests, the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) has taken a number of steps to improve the test experience for children this year. The STA has changed the type and difficulty of the questions at the start of the test, to ensure children are not discouraged. Children will still be expected to reach the same standards as last year.

  2. New accountability measures were introduced in 2016 to monitor the progress that children make through primary school. These measures were designed to be fair by showing how much progress pupils in a school make compared to other pupils nationally, who started at a similar level. Through this, teachers and schools are credited for the progress that they make with all pupils, including low, middle and high attainers, so that every child is supported to reach their potential.

  3. In December 2015, the independent Rochford Review published recommendations for an interim statutory solution to assess pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests. This solution was used in developing the interim pre-key stage standards for the 2015 to 2016 and 2016 to 2017 academic years. Following the review’s final report in October 2016, the government will now ask for views on these recommendations to establish an assessment system suitable for these children. The system will enable them to progress on to the mainstream forms of statutory assessment if, and when, they are ready. This is a diverse group, with above average numbers of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and pupils with English as an additional language. Schools should be recognised for the progress they make with pupils of all abilities.

  4. We are consulting on measuring progress from reception to the end of primary school. We are also seeking views on how best to measure progress for infant and junior schools to ensure they also get credit for the progress they support their pupils to make.

  5. Today Education Secretary Justine Greening visited St John Fisher Primary School in Pinner to mark the launch of the primary assessment consultation. The Secretary of State was joined by the General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), Russell Hobby.

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