Primary Assessment

30 March 2017

Commenting on the launch of a new consultation on primary assessment, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“Our current primary assessment system is broken. Almost 50% of 11 year olds were labelled failures last year as a result of badly designed and poorly implemented tests. Our members want a system that supports children to achieve their potential, gives useful information to parents and teachers and does not narrow the school curriculum.

“Today’s consultation on primary assessment is a recognition that our children deserve something better.

“Ms Greening has been listening – but only partially. The consultation floats the idea that statutory assessment at KS1 will be set aside, but not until the early 2020s. This would be a welcome concession to the thousands of teachers who have protested against the effects of a test-driven curriculum on six and seven year olds.

“But the relief that is offered at one stage of education is accompanied by changes for the worse for younger age groups. In a triumph of hope over experience, the DfE wants to reintroduce baseline testing to the early years, despite its failure in 2015/16. The DfE wants to believe that the test results of a 5 year old can reasonably predict their performance at 11, so that the school system can be held to account if children do not make the ‘expected’ progress. In fact there is a wealth of evidence that points the other way. In pursuit of this unattainable goal, the DfE seems willing to inflict damage on the education of four and five year olds: baseline testing will drive curriculum change towards a narrower early years curriculum, with a premature and inappropriate emphasis on formal learning.

“Not enough will change for 11 year olds and their parents. Teachers will welcome the suggested shift from ‘secure fit’ to ‘best fit’ in the assessment of writing. But teachers will note how little the consultation offers for Key Stage 2: the same curriculum, a very similar assessment structure, the same accountability pressures, steering them towards teaching for the test. Primary assessment ‘should not be about putting pressure on children’ says the consultation – but there is no change envisaged to significantly lessen these pressures at KS2.

“The NUT will engage with the consultation process – and continue to work for deeper change. Parents, heads, teachers and children need a system of assessment and accountability which works for everyone.”

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