Primary Bulletin January 2012
The Government is pressing ahead with its plan to introduce the Year One Phonics Screening Check as a statutory test for all children in Year One. The Check will take place for the first time in all primary schools in June 2012. Guidance on the administration of the Check will be available to schools in January 2012 in the Assessment and Reporting Arrangements document.
The Government continues to insist that the majority of teachers in the pilot, carried out in 2011, thought that the Check provided them with information about pupil progress in phonics for the lowest achieving pupils which they would not otherwise have known.
The feedback the Union received from so many of you following our last bulletin paints a different picture. You unanimously said that you believed that the test would not provide you with any information about pupil phonic knowledge which you did not already have, it would be time-consuming and was fundamentally unnecessary.
The latest information from the Department for Education (DfE) on the Check suggests that the ‘expected standard’ for pupils in the Check will be set at 32 out of 40. Findings from the pilot show that two thirds of children who took the Check failed to reach the expected standard. The Government has said that this is due to schools not teaching systematic synthetic phonics effectively. The NUT, however, argues that this finding totally undermines the test as an indicator of children’s capacity to develop into competent readers.
The Union has written to the Government stating that there seems to be no relationship between the results of the Check and young children’s reading development as measured at the end of Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. It has been restated to Ministers that the test is a waste of time and public money. It will label nearly 70% of our children failures when they are not, leading to a potentially terrible effect on their confidence and motivation.
Do you have a view on this which you wish to share? Please contact email@example.com about this or any other concerns you have regarding the Year One Phonics Screening Check. Further information on the Year One Phonics Screening Check and the latest Union advice and guidance for members can be found here.
Since the Academies Act was passed in summer 2010, academy status has been an "option" open to school governing bodies that chose to exercise it. However, the Government is now embarking on a programme of forcing academy status on so-called "underperforming" schools. Potentially hundreds of schools that have not opted to convert could now be threatened with being forced to become academies run by an external sponsor regardless of the wishes of the school community.
When the primary league tables were published in December 2011, the Government said that up to 200 primaries were at imminent threat of conversion due to poor performance with a further 500 in the firing line.
As we know, league tables are not a rounded measure of the hard work that goes on in schools and present merely a small picture of children’s achievements and progress in a small number of subjects. Furthermore the threshold on which school performance is judged has been raised by five percentage points so that now a primary school would be seen as "underperforming" if its Key Stage 2 results were that:
- fewer than 60 per cent of pupils at the end of KS2 achieved level 4 or above in English and maths; and
- a below average (national median) percentage of pupils at the end of KS2 made expected progress in English; and
- a below average (national median) percentage of pupils at the end of KS2 made expected progress in maths.
These artificial standards are being applied retrospectively and schools that have failed to meet them over a number of years are being threatened with academy conversion.
This represents a massive attack on state comprehensive education and all NUT members need to be aware of the threat posed to their schools.
Members can find legal advice and a Briefing on forced academy conversion, which includes campaigning advice if your school finds itself in this situation, at www.teachers.org.uk/academies.
It has been reported to the Union that despite schools being charged £9 per paper by QCDA (now the Standards and Testing Agency, STA) for re-marking the Key Stage 2 SATs writing test the returned papers had very few marks changed and little if any individual feedback or annotation.
Clearly if QCDA/STA is being paid to re-mark the papers schools should expect comments on the papers which could be used to moderate teaching and the future marking of pupil’s work.
The Union would be interested to hear from members who have received re-marked Key Stage 2 papers from QCDA which were not annotated. If you wish to share your views on this please contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
The first 100 Teaching Schools started work in September 2011 with a second tranche expected in 2012. All phases and types of school can apply for Teaching School designation, including independent schools and academies.
To be eligible, the school must fulfil a number of criteria, including an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted grade in its most recent inspection; a track record of successful partnership with other schools; have made a ‘strong contribution’ to ITT, CPD and school support in the past; and have consistently high levels of pupil performance or sustained improvement.
To check whether your school has been designated as a Teaching School, see here.
The NUT would expect head teachers to have consulted fully with staff before submitting an application to become a Teaching School and to have kept staff fully informed of the application’s progress.
The NUT is concerned that members in Teaching Schools may be asked to undertake additional training tasks beyond their ‘ordinary’ work. Members who are asked to undertake such work should be offered a separate contract, with rewards which recognise the additional responsibilities involved.
If you have any concerns about how the Teaching Schools programme will affect you personally, speak to your NUT school representative in the first instance, otherwise your NUT division or association. More information and guidance on Teaching Schools is available from the NUT website.
The Government is currently consulting the education sector on changes to the NQT induction regulations. If the proposals are approved by government the following changes will take place from April 2012.
- Currently induction is awarded by an appropriate body which is usually the local authority. The new regulations will relax the rules about which groups can be an appropriate body to include teaching schools, other local authorities and a new independent body for academies and free schools.
- NQTs will be able to carry out supply work for up to five years before completing their induction.
- The 90 per cent teaching timetable for NQTs undertaking induction will become a regulation.
- Appropriate bodies will have greater flexibility in deciding when an induction has been completed in cases where data or paperwork has been lost.
- There will no longer be a requirement to use the National Curriculum in your teaching as an NQT undertaking induction.
You can find further information about the current induction arrangements at http://www.teachers.org.uk/nqt . If you have any concerns about your NQT induction talk to your division or association secretary.
The new EYFS framework will be implemented in schools and early years settings from September 2012. The final framework document should be available to schools and settings from April 2012 which does not give a great deal of time for teachers to prepare for September or to arrange any training which may be required.
The proposals in the new EYFS cut the early learning goals from 69 to 17 and recommend that assessment should not entail long breaks from interaction with the children or excessive paperwork.
The Union will be issuing further guidance on the EYFS following the publication of the final framework document in April. The Union response to the EYFS consultation can be downloaded at http://www.teachers.org.uk/earlyyears .
The timetable for the Review of the National Curriculum can be found here.
The NUT's continuous professional development programme runs courses on early years and primary issues as well as a wide range of behaviour training ranging from NQT to leadership practice. Please visit http://www.teachers.org.uk/cpd for further information.
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