Curriculum and assessment in chaos: a survey of NUT primary school members

26 March 2016

NUT Conference 2016

Curriculum and assessment in chaos: a survey of NUT primary school members

A survey to which 5,247 primary teachers responded in only two days paints a troubling picture of life in primary schools for both teachers and pupils. It will make disturbing reading for parents and carers.

The survey shows that NUT members working in primary schools in England overwhelmingly view as inappropriate the curriculum they have to teach. It also makes clear that new assessment arrangements, even after the DfE ‘clarifications’ of recent weeks, do not enjoy the confidence of the profession.

86% of primary teachers say their morale has declined in the last two years and three quarters describe their morale as low or very low. (1)

Almost half (48%) of primary teachers say they are considering leaving the profession within the next two years. Workload was cited as a factor by 93% of respondents. Other reasons include the rapid pace of curriculum change (60%) and teacher mental health concerns (50%). Just 8% say it was because they will be retiring from the profession.

Three quarters of primary teachers say their workload has increased since the Government launched its 2014 Workload Challenge which was meant to address concerns about increasing and intensifying work, with as many as one third (30%) saying workload has increased ‘significantly’.

Primary teachers at both KS1 (ages 5-7) and KS2 (ages 7-11) have pressing concerns about new assessment arrangements: 96% report that they have created demands which are inappropriate for the age group they are teaching; 97% believe the system is likely to brand children as ‘failures’ and 86% that it has created a curriculum that is too narrow.
86% believe that the Secretary of State should cancel this summer’s primary tests because of the chaos surrounding implementation.

Commenting on the survey findings, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“The findings of this survey are shocking. Any responsible Government would sit up and take notice of what primary teachers are saying. The Government is implementing changes to primary assessment in a chaotic way which has exacerbated teachers’ unsustainable workload and undermined their morale and motivation.

“Primary teachers care passionately about their pupils’ progress, well-being and future life chances. When primary teachers are saying in such large numbers that assessment is too rigid, that tests are not age-appropriate and that children are experiencing stress as a result, then alarm bells should ring. Some 86% of primary teachers are calling on Nicky Morgan to cancel this summer’s tests.

“The Secretary of State should listen seriously to this very grave warning, especially at a time when she is proposing in her White Paper to introduce yet another set of top-down changes. Primary teachers are desperately worried that current impositions are already reducing children’s motivation to learn and expect too much from children before they are ready. If Government doesn’t listen, the situation is going to get very much worse, and almost half of these teachers are saying they may leave their profession.”

Editor’s Note

(1) All percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

The NUT’s Annual Conference is taking place this Easter weekend in Brighton. For the Final Agenda, please click here.

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Primary survey report201.5 KB
Primary survey chart706.5 KB
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