Education Select Committee: primary assessment inquiry

Thank you to Deputy Head Michael Tidd for the following article. 

It’s not every day you get invited to the Houses of Parliament – and in fact, I still haven’t been. But I did at least get to go in the posh glass building next door to provide evidence to the Education Select Committee for their inquiry into primary assessment.

Anyone who knows me, or reads what I’ve written, knows that I’ve plenty to say on the topic – but with only an hour, and with MPs in control of the questions, I wasn’t sure I’d have time to say everything I wanted to.

The Select Committee has decided to hold the inquiry after the various headlines and events surrounding primary assessment over the past year, and they started with a very big – and vague – question about the purpose of assessment.

A considerable amount of discussion revolved around how the changes to primary assessment in recent years had affected teaching, learning, the curriculum and, of course, children. I think it’s fair to say that we highlighted a number of concerns in all those respects. Speaking personally, I’m broadly in favour of statutory assessment at the end of Year 6, but with our experiences of the very challenging reading test last year, the hugely frustrating writing assessment framework, and the clear reduction of time spent on science and other foundation subjects it’s clear that the impacts are significant.

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Vocabulary in the KS2 2016 reading test – sprint or marathon?

Thanks to Shareen Mayers for this article on vocabulary in the KS2 reading test.

Since the release of the 2016 KS2 reading test, I have been thinking about the vocabulary element in great depth. I have read endlessly about encouraging pupils to read for pleasure, shared reading, skimming and scanning and engendering a love of books, and I whole-heartedly agree with this but something told me to look deeper at the actual words that pupils were expected to know and understand. Indeed, they all seemed a little closer to home than I expected!

To my surprise, most of the words tested were a part of the national curriculum spelling appendix for KS1 and KS2. Words like ‘dangerous,’ ‘curious’ and ‘unique’ are even listed as non-statutory words within the national curriculum and the spelling rules/areas shown in the table below are all in the national curriculum. Of course, we cannot predict the vocabulary but this was interesting to note.

When teaching spellings, it is also important that pupils understand their meaning in different contexts as well as being able to spell them and use some/most of them in their writing.

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Standards and Testing Agency video resources

We recently shared the key takeaways from the November 2016 Standards and Testing Agency webinars on primary assessment. The STA have now released videos of these webinars, along with other informative videos on themes such as ‘Understanding Scaled Scores’. You can watch these in their media and training area here.

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Learning from Raise

Thanks to Michael Tidd for this helpful article.

The excitement of opening up Raise Online when the data is first published is… well, perhaps excitement is not quite the right word. Nevertheless, when the data finally arrived this term headteachers will have been poring over it trying to extract every last detail of information about last year’s performance. Doubtless governors too will get their chance to share in the scatterplots and tables, wisely guided by the professional leads.

The problem is, it’s too late for all those children, and just like the stock market adverts always tell us: historic performance is not necessarily a guide to future success. Leaders and governors need to consider what has gone before, but all the while need to be keeping an eye on the future. So while Raise can tell us something of what we achieved last year, how else do we keep everyone informed, including our governors?

One big thing that is evident from this year’s Raise summary is the clear focus on disadvantaged pupils, i.e. those eligible for pupil premium funding. Barely a page goes by without the group being separated out from the rest of the cohort and their attainment and progress being listed separately. In many cases, it’s also compared to other pupils nationally, but it’s important to note that it’s not other pupil premium children, but rather the non-PP children they’re being compared to. That’s important to consider when looking at other data in school.

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2017 Assessments Webinar: KS1 and KS2

On 15th November 2016, the Standards and Testings Agency broadcast a webinar on 2017 assessments. We’ve summarised the key points below.

Key stage 1 assessments: an overview

  • There will be no new test types introduced before 2018/19.
  • The consultation on the future of primary assessment will commence early next year.
  • Thursday 29th June is the KS1 teacher assessments submission deadline.
  • The KS1 spelling and grammar test will remain optional for 2017. Schools who wish to use it can still download materials from NCA tools.

Key stage 2 assessments: an overview

  • There will be no new test types introduced before 2018/19.
  • The consultation on the future of primary assessment will commence early next year.
  • Year 7 re-sits will not be introduced.
  • A statutory multiplication times tables check will be going ahead, but not before the 2018/19 academic year.

Key stage 1 assessments: key questions answered

Last year, the DfE changed its expectations regarding handwriting for writing assessment. Are there any changes this year?

No. To reach the expected standard,  handwriting is not a necessary component.

Do children have to pass phonics check to be considered as meeting the expected standard in reading? 

No. If teachers want to include the phonics check as evidence of a child meeting expectations that is okay, but there is no formal requirement for a child to pass to be considered ‘working at expectations’.

Will the test results have to be reported to the LA? 

No. The tests are there to help inform teacher assessment which will then need to be reported to the DfE. LAs can ask to see tests as part of moderation visits.

Should P Scales still be used to assess children with SEN?

Yes. One of the recommendations from the Rochford Review is to make P Scales non-statutory; however, for this current academic year, P Scales remain statutory and should still be used.

What classes as independent in terms of spelling for a child working at the expected standard in writing?

Any resources that the child accesses independently e.g. words on the wall or in the dictionary (providing they choose to use these resources themselves) are acceptable. An electronic resource that suggests spellings for a child automatically would not be considered independent, nor would a teacher’s suggestion to check spellings.

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Ten recommendations from the Rochford Review

Thanks to Lorraine Petersen for this article.

After waiting for over six months, the final report from the Rochford Review was published on 19th October, just as many schools were preparing for their half term break.

The Rochford Review was established in July 2015 to review statutory assessment arrangements for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests. The interim report, published in December 2015 provided an interim solution for reporting outcomes in 2016. It published the interim pre-key stage standards for those pupils working below the expected standard at the end of key stage 1 and key stage 2. The review team then continued discussions, looking at a longer term solution especially in regards to the future of P Scales.

The final report published in October outlines ten recommendations for those pupils who cannot access statutory assessments as they have not completed the relevant programmes of study when they reach the appropriate chronological age. These recommendations will be part of a wider government consultation on primary assessment that will take place in spring 2017.

The ten recommendations are:

  1. The removal of the statutory requirement to assess pupils using P scales.
  2. The interim pre-key stage standards for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests are made permanent and extended to include all pupils engaged in subject-specific learning.
  3. Schools assess pupils’ development in all four areas of need outlined in the SEND Code of Practice, but statutory assessment for pupils who are not engaged in subject-specific learning should be limited to the area of cognition and learning. Continue reading →