Stability in Assessment? No Thanks!

Reading time: 3

Jen Willis

Jen Willis writes for Teacher Toolkit from a primary perspective. She is currently an assistant head in a primary school in Bolton, Lancashire. She has taught all three key stages in primary with a particular love of year six. She leads EYFS / KS1 and...
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Do our primary schools now have stability in assessment?

How have I allowed myself to be duped into feeling relieved that there will no changes to primary assessments until 2018/19, when stability in assessment isn’t what we really want right now.

Upon reading the headlines about Justine Greening’s announcements that there would be ‘no new national tests or assessments introduced before the 2018 to 2019 academic year‘, staff rooms around the country could be forgiven for breathing a momentary sigh of relief. At least we now know what we’re working towards!

No more tests!

The proposal that the children who had ‘failed’ to reach the magical 100 average point score would have to resit in year seven, was considered damaging by primary and secondary colleagues alike, yet Greening has promised that it would (now) not be introduced; more relief!  The grammar test would be non-statutory for our seven-year olds and to top it off, there seemed to be a genuine recognition that the Teacher Assessment of writing at Key Stage Two was experienced differently, dependent on the local authority, which caused huge inconsistencies.

It feels as though we’ve all been on the same team, routing together for the children.

A secure fit?

As we returned to our classrooms after the summer, the reality of the ‘secure fit‘ writing expectations remaining with us for at least a further two years, started to sink in. What fun we’ll have, shoe-horning phrases! How much we will enjoy the additional hours involved in triple-checking all of the statements and knowing what impact it would have upon our workload!

Why should we allow our children with dyslexia to be labelled as failures for a further two years?

There was also no mention of the reading test.  There were hints, as the words ‘more challenging‘ and ‘stretching‘ were emphasised. However, none of the tears experienced by year six children last year  were mentioned, nor was the huge hike in requirement for vocabulary. (OldPrimaryTimer has done some very interesting work on the readability of the texts here.)

shutterstock_237809794 Students sleep in exam room

Image: Shutterstock

Long-term suffering …

What’s worse, will we all jump through higher hoops at the expense of other curriculum areas and prove that it is possible?

The progress measures is far from perfect, as @jpembroke highlights: “there are still serious question marks over the whole methodology.

This has also gone unnoticed by Greening and her department.

Will we have to play a data game for the next two years? As an (Early Years Foundation Stage) EYFS practitioner, I was hugely relieved to see that the profile will remain in place for the 2017/18 academic year. However, I may be in the minority.

Even after what can only be described as a predictable debacle, regarding the introduction of baseline testing, again assessment arrangements for EYFS will continue to be consulted upon. Will these be ignored like the findings of the 2013 consultation? Will a single provider of a (thoroughly unsuitable) test give a key predictor for the end of key stage one results? Have we learned nothing about what it means to be truly school ready?

The Rt. Hon. Justine Greening ended her ministerial statement with the comment:

I look forward to engaging with parents, teachers and unions on (assessment) issues in the coming months.”

As Greening launches the consultation for primary assessment and the implications for accountability, I hope she really will listen to voices of people who know students best. We do share the same high aspirations for our children – even if we differ on how we should be tested and measured.

Learning First!

There is a whole community of people dedicated to raising standards. Please tap into it! 

I also hope the DfE gets a better grip of the timeline compared to the 2016 assessments (some exemplification did not appear until April)!  The children who will sit the new assessments scheduled for the Summer of 2019 are already in year four, and as an assessment lead, the momentary pleasant (if unusual) feeling of calm and stability was very short-lived.

In reality, the sigh of relief was a very uneasy acceptance: it’s ‘better the devil you know’.


Jenni Willis writes for Teacher Toolkit


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