Primary assessment – the good, the bad and the ugly

14 Sep

By Martin Hodge, Professional Officer (Policy & Research Services)

14 September 2017

Following the consultation in June and July, the DfE has outlined far-reaching plans for primary assessment and accountability.  So, to echo Sergio Leone’s epic spaghetti western, what about today’s announcement is the good, the bad and the ugly?

The good

There are some attempts to make today’s announcement attractive to teachers and school and academy leaders.  The DfE has been investigating teacher workload for the past two years and this document makes it clear that workload management is still very much on its agenda.

There will be no more statutory assessments at Key Stage 1 from 2023 – so no more SATs, and KS2 teachers will no longer have to submit reading and maths assessment data.

The framework for KS2 writing assessment has been revised to allow teachers more flexibility in how they make judgements.

In the early years, there will be a revision of the Early Learning Goals, with descriptors made clearer and requirements for evidence identified in an attempt to reduce the assessment burden.

The bad

However, there will be new assessments introduced.  The multiplication tables check will be introduced into Year 4 from 2020.

Given that this was a manifesto pledge and re-iterated in 2016, it was to be expected, even though it is our opinion that it is unnecessary.

Its inclusion in Y4 is probably the least disruptive, allowing schools opportunity to support pupils’ improvement before the KS2 SATs at the end of Y6.

With the refinement of the Early Learning Goals comes an attempt to align them more closely with KS1.  This will inevitably mean an increased focus on literacy and numeracy, rather than an expansion of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum into KS1 as we proposed.

Whilst the document makes clear that there is no intention to narrow the Foundation Stage curriculum, in the future the three prime areas (communication and language development, physical development, and personal, social and emotional development) and the specific areas of mathematics and literacy could be the only areas which are assessed.

The ugly

It had been piloted and had spectacularly failed; it was widely denigrated by early years staff as putting too much pressure onto the youngest of school children; and yet the DfE will introduce a new ‘teacher-mediated assessment’ in the reception year.  From 2020, there will be a baseline assessment.  Voice has repeatedly raised concerns about reception baseline assessments, citing issues of reliability and consistency, as well as the anxiety this will cause among young children.

It is therefore incumbent upon us to ensure that, over the next two years, any pilot baseline assessment is as sensitive and unremarkable as possible, and to ensure that pupil needs, rather than high-stakes data collection, continue to be at the heart of the foundation stage.

If you and your school are involved in any of the proposed pilots over the coming months, do please get in touch and let us know your thoughts so that we can feed these back to the DfE.

Further information


Primary assessment public consultations: government response: statement to Parliament

Primary school pupil assessment: Rochford Review recommendations:  consultation outcome

Primary assessment in England: consultation outcome

Helping children learn through a proportionate primary assessment system: press release


Voice Office Response: Primary Assessment and the Rochford Review

Voice Official Response: Primary Assessment (including SATs survey results)

Primary Assessment under review


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