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NAHT response to the government consultation on primary assessment in England

NAHT has submitted our response to the government consultation on primary assessment. This was informed by significant work with NAHT's National Executive and the responses to our survey, which over 1,000 members responded to. You can read more about our responses by viewing the infographic here

Here is a brief summary of some of the key points made in our response and the full submission can be found here. 

Early Years Foundation Stage Profile

  • NAHT supports the government consultation proposal that the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) should be retained.      
  • Concerns have arisen around how the data from the EYFSP is used: it was not designed as a baseline or to judge school performance, and so must not be used as such.     
  • NAHT would support the development of additional categories for children who are working below the 'emerging' category to provide opportunities to demonstrate the progress and outcomes for these children.     
  • NAHT believes that significant steps must be taken to reduce the workload and time burden involved  in administering the EYFSP including the level of evidence currently expected.   
  • NAHT members have identified a need to improve both the consistency and effectiveness of the EYFSP moderation process and the need for those administering the EYFSP need access to high quality, funded training.    

 Baseline for a progress measure

  • NAHT cautiously supports the introduction of a new baseline assessment in the reception year, if that is accompanied by the removal of statutory assessments at the end of key stage 1 (KS1).   
  • It is imperative that any new baseline in reception should not take on the high stakes nature of the  current tests at KS1 and key stage 2 (KS2).       
  • NAHT members do have concerns about the introduction of a new baseline at the start of school, particularly in the aftermath of the recent attempt to introduce a reception baseline, and these concerns must be addressed if such a baseline is to be supported.
  • Any new baseline in the reception year should be provided by a single, nationally agreed provider to avoid a repetition of the problems experienced in 2015/16.
  • NAHT is concerned that the focus of such a baseline should go beyond a narrow range of skills related to literacy and numeracy and supports the inclusion of a broader range of skills and behaviours, which have an impact on the progress children make.

 KS1 statutory assessment

  • NAHT supports the proposal to continue to use KS1 teacher assessment data as the baseline for measuring progress in the interim years before a new measure in reception is in place.
  • There are areas of KS1 assessment which should be improved for this interim period.
  • With the introduction of a new assessment in the reception year to provide the baseline for a progress measure for school accountability, there is absolutely no reason why statutory assessment at KS1 should be retained.

 Single and cross key stage schools

  • NAHT believes that the most effective and fair progress measure for all schools with primary aged pupils is a reception to Year 6 measure.
  • It is inherently unfair to suggest that a minority of pupils, attending schools which are not all-through primaries, will be required to undertake additional statutory assessments at the end of KS1. Such a decision may also have an impact on admissions, particularly to infant schools.
  • A national assessment bank which provides non-statutory standardised assessments may be particularly beneficial to these schools in evidencing the progress of their pupils.

 KS2 teacher assessment data in English reading and mathematics

  • NAHT questions the purpose of collecting teacher assessment data when it appears not to be used in any purposeful way by the DfE and only the test results are used in performance measures for accountability.
  • If this statutory obligation were to cease, those teacher assessment frameworks for English reading and Maths should become non-statutory.
  • It is imperative that removing statutory teacher assessment in English reading and maths at KS2, does not undermine the primacy of teacher assessment in supporting pupil progress.
  • NAHT believes that a strong focus on assessment from initial teacher training (ITT) through to ongoing CPD for established teachers and school leaders must be a national priority in order to continue to improve the effectiveness of day to day assessment across all schools.

 KS1 English grammar, punctuation and spelling test

  • NAHT agrees with the proposal that the KS1 English grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS) test should remain non-statutory and would extend this to include the KS2 GPS test.

 Multiplication tables check

  • NAHT does not support the implementation of a multiplication tables check for the whole cohort of pupils at any point in KS2.
  • NAHT is concerned that this is an example of an additional test being introduced on the basis of political ideology, with no evidence base that it is required.

 Statutory assessment of writing

  • In our survey on the primary assessment consultation proposals, 96% of 751 respondents agreed to some extent that the teacher assessment of writing should change to a best fit approach.
  • In the same survey 95% of 751 respondents agreed to some extent that significant changes are needed to the interim teacher assessment framework for English writing, to better reflect the balance between creative and technical aspects.
  • There are substantial concerns that grammar, punctuation and spelling are, in effect, "double counted" for pupils at KS2 with the statutory GPS test and the majority of "I can" statements in the writing teacher assessment framework also focussed on technical aspects of writing.
  • NAHT believes that the "secure fit" approach to the assessment of writing is leading to unfair assessments of pupil's attainment and progress. This, in turn, is leading to the creation of unreliable data on school performance in writing.

 Equalities issues

  • NAHT believes that a basic expectation of any system of statutory assessment is that it should recognise the progress made by all children and that statutory assessments and tests must be designed in such a way that the majority of children are able to access them.
  • National assessments place pupils with SEND at a particular disadvantage as their style and format presents significant access challenges for many pupils with forms of SEND.
  • In the NAHT survey on the consultation proposals, 62% of 735 respondents believed that a removal of strict time limits to a lower and upper limit would improve accessibility to statutory tests.
  • NAHT supports a change to the language being used to describe and report pupil performance in the primary phase. Simplistic, overarching labels such as 'working below the expected standard' mean that the progress of too many children is ignored and too many children are effectively labelled as failing.
  • NAHT supports changes to the "secure fit" approach to the assessment of writing and to the content of the teacher assessment frameworks. NAHT have been particularly troubled about this approach as it appears to discriminate against children with specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia and dyspraxia.
First published 15 December 2017