Government response to consultation on primary school assessment and accountability

The Government has issued its response to the consultation on primary school assessment and accountability. The majority of respondents disagreed with the Department for Education’s (DfE) initial proposals to transform how primary school are held to account and how pupils are assessed although, although the DfE are going ahead with most their reforms to the accountability model regardless – but significantly the more controversial aspects of the plans have been moderated considerably.

P-levels will be replaced by new performance descriptors that the Government will be developing alongside “experts”; the Government accepted the argument that removing such a framework would make assessment too inconsistent and could particularly be troublesome for those pupils who change schools, while plans for a “decile ranking” for pupils have also been dropped .

The headline proposals, issued for consultation in July last year, were:

  •  The system of P-levels removed and not replaced.
    Schools will be able to introduce their own approaches to formative assessment.
  • Teachers will continue to track pupils’ progress and provide regular information to parents, but how they do so will be for schools to decide; the DfE will not prescribe a single system for ongoing assessment and reporting.
  • Statutory national curriculum tests at key stages 1 and 2 will continue, with the first tests based on the new national curriculum will take place in summer 2016.
  • In order to measure pupils’ progress, schools will report how each pupil performs at key stage 2 compared to pupils with similar prior attainment.
  • To show parents how their child’s attainment compares with other pupils in their cohort, the DfE propose to report each pupil’s ranking in the national cohort by decile (i.e. 10% of the cohort), which aims to show each pupil’s performance relative to their peers nationally.
  • Pupils with particular learning needs will not be required to be “secondary ready”, with schools expected to refer to the SEN Code of Practice for advice on how to support the pupils with SEN.
  • The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile will no longer be compulsory

Following consultation, the DfE has decided to reform the following:

– The system of P-levels will be replaced with new performance descriptors introduced, directly linked to the content of the new curriculum.

  • 85% of children should achieve the new expected standard by the end of primary school.

– A new floor standard will be introduced, which will be based on the progress made by pupils from reception to the end of primary school.

  • A school will fall below the floor only if pupils make poor progress and fewer than 85% of them achieve the new expected standard

– A reception baseline test will be used as the starting point from which to measure a school’s progress.

  • This will apply for children who start reception in September 2016 and beyond.
  • The progress of pupils starting reception in September 2016 in all-through primary schools will be measured in 2023 when these pupils reach the end of key stage.
  • Schools may opt to use an approved baseline assessment from 2015.
  • The children who take the first reception baseline in September 2015 will reach the end of key stage in 2022, until that point, progress will continue to be measured from the end of key stage 1, using the new assessment arrangements set out above.
  • In 2022 performance tables, schools will be judged on whichever is better –  their progress from the reception baseline to key stage 2; or their progress from key stage 1 to key stage 2.

– There will be national assessments at key points in children’s primary education which will be used for school performance measures from 2016 onwards.

  • At the end of key stage 1, teacher assessment in mathematics and reading will be informed by externally – set, internally – marked tests
  • At the end of key stage 2 pupils will continue to sit externally – set and marked tests in mathematics, reading, and grammar, punctuation and spelling.

– The results of the tests in reading; mathematics; and, grammar, punctuation and spelling will be reported to pupils and parents as scaled scores.

  • The DfE will not give parents a decile ranking for their child due to concerns about whether decile rankings are meaningful and their reliability at individual pupil level.
  • Parents will be provided with their child’s score alongside the average for their school, the local area and nationally.

– Schools will be able to introduce their own approaches to assessment, outside national tests at the end of key stage 1 and key stage 2.

  • The DfE have launched an Assessment Innovation Fund to enable assessment methods developed by schools and expert organisations to be scaled up into easy-to-use packages for other schools to use
  • The DfE says that there are already assessments available to schools for children of this age and they will build on the existing body of evidence and work with experts to create criteria for the baselines which will count for the progress measure.
  • Assessments will be sought with evidence that they are strong predictors of key stage 1 and key stage 2 attainment, whilst reflecting the age and abilities of children in reception.

– For the small minority of pupils for whom assessment arrangements under the national curriculum will not be appropriate will be subject to assessment by teachers

  • P-scales will be retained for reporting teachers’ judgements in these circumstances and the content of the P-scales will remain unchanged
  • Schools will remain accountable for low-attainment pupils’ through robust inspection which looks at teacher assessments of low attaining pupils and whether pupils are making the appropriate progress

– Schools will be required to publish a suite of indicators of performance on their website in a standard format showing:

  • the average progress made by pupils in reading, writing and mathematics
  • the percentage of pupils achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics at the end of key stage 2;
  • the average score of pupils in their end of key stage 2 assessments; and,
  • the percentage of pupils who achieve a high score in all areas at the end of key stage 2

– From September 2016 the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile will no longer be compulsory.

  • The Early Years Foundation Stage will remain statutory and early years settings will be subject to inspection on how they follow the EYFS