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Primary assessment consultation: The best starting point for measuring progress in primary school

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​New accountability measures were introduced in 2016 to recognise the progress that pupils make through primary school, alongside the new attainment measures. Any progress measure needs a reliable baseline, a starting point from which progress will be calculated. Ideally, that baseline should be established as early as possible to cover the maximum amount of a pupil's time in a particular school and therefore ensure that a school receives full credit for the value that it adds.

For the data to be considered robust as a baseline for a progress measure, the assessment needs to be a reliable indicator of pupils' attainment and strongly correlate with their attainment in statutory key stage 2 assessments in English reading, writing and mathematics. Any baseline assessment must be appropriate and suitable for pupils, and avoid creating unnecessary burdens or perverse incentives for schools. It is also important that a baseline assessment can differentiate effectively between pupils' differing starting points so that like-for-like comparisons can be made.

Option 1: Capture more progress through the primary phase by moving the starting point for measuring progress to the reception year

The consultation recognises that there is a strong case for measuring progress from reception to the end of year 6.

One option would be to modify the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) so that this could also be used as the baseline for measuring progress in primary school. This would involve amending its literacy and numeracy content so that it is assessed under more specific conditions (for example, to see if a child can do a particular task at a snapshot in time). The government has reservations about taking this approach as it would provide a less rounded view of individual pupil performance and would mean missing some of the important progress schools make with children as it is completed towards the end of the reception year.

The government favour the introduction of a new assessment earlier in the reception year which complements and aligns with EYFSP. If they proceed with this they propose that they would work with teachers and unions to ensure that it would be appropriate for pupils, correlates with key stage 2 outcomes and does not create undue burdens.  

The consultation recognises that the specific uses of the data gained from a new assessment in reception would need to be agreed. It clearly states that data from a baseline assessment could be published at national level for transparency, but not at school level. Nor would school-level data be shared with regional schools commissioners, local authorities or Ofsted. The government also agree that such data should not be used to 'judge' individual pupils or schools on attainment in reception and so would only make use of the data collected when the pupils reach the end of key stage 2, to create a progress measure that takes into account pupils' starting points.


Option 2: An improved key stage 1 baseline

The alternative to a baseline in reception is continuing to use key stage 1 teacher assessment data as a baseline.

There are concerns that key stage 1 teacher assessments were not designed to bear the greater weight of a more prominent progress measure and that arguably incentives have been created for schools to deflate results at key stage 1 to demonstrate greater progress by key stage 2. To help address these concerns, it would be necessary to significantly increase moderation of teacher assessment at key stage 1. The current interim frameworks only allow for pupils to be placed into one of three broad teacher assessment categories. This provides enough differentiation to create a progress measure, but a greater number of categories would provide a more robust and effective measure.

 An alternative approach to improve the key stage 1 baseline would be to collect the data from the statutory tests which pupils already sit at the end of year 2. This would provide a robust baseline without adding to teachers' workload.


Interim years

Any new baseline assessment would not be in place before the 2019 to 2020 academic year, with the first cohort of pupils taking the new assessment reaching the end of key stage 2 in summer 2026 at the earliest. The government propose continuing to use key stage 1 teacher assessment data as the baseline for the cohorts of pupils who will be completing primary school before that time.


Read the full consultation and submit your own response to it here.


Have your say on these proposals by completing our survey.

Page Published: 18/04/2017