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The government’s assessment consultation is a step on the way to a better system

Today (30 March, 2017), the government publishes its consultation on primary assessment in England. You can find the full consultation here. 

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said: “This consultation is the result of months of detailed talks between education unions and the Department for Education. We appreciate the engagement of the Secretary of State with the concerns of school leaders. The government has listened to many of the principles and recommendations contained in NAHT’s independent Assessment Review Group Report. There’s more to be accomplished but we’ve made good progress from where we were a year ago."

Mr Hobby continued: “We welcome the government's proposal to move away from the ‘secure fit’ approach to the teacher assessment of writing and to review the assessment framework to make sure there’s a balance between the creative and technical aspects of writing. ‘Best fit’ is a better way to assess pupil’s writing. This must happen in the next academic year and will mean a much fairer system of assessment for all children. 

“The possibility of ending Key Stage 1 SATs is good news. This creates the time and space in a pupil’s primary years for teachers to focuson teaching rather than on high stakes assessment. It will properly reward early intervention and it will reduce workload. Overall, minimising the number of high stakes tests is the right way to go. This will help every school to deliver a rich educational experience for all children.

“The consultation proposes replacing the Key Stage 1 SATs with a properly designed assessment in reception in order to create a baseline for a progress measure. NAHT support this approach as long as this is not a high stakes assessment for pupil or school. It could more fairly reflect the challenges faced by different schools. And it is possible to design it to avoid predicting or tracking individual pupil performance from such a young age. 

“Where we believe that the consultation does not go far enough we will say so, and we will continue to point out flaws in the government’s approach. Statutory times tables tests in Year 6 in particular are a mistake and will distort teaching. 

NAHT deputy general secretary, Nick Brook, co-author of the Assessment Review Group report, said: “The success of any new assessment system depends on breaking the troubled link between testing and punitive accountability. Unless we address the worst aspects of the current accountability system, including acceptance of the inherent limitations of data, even the most sensible assessment arrangements will become skewed. Where challenges exist, we need to replace a presumption of failure with an expectation of support.  

“Assessment remains a vital part of school activity and our hope is that, after several difficult years, but thanks to some really constructive recent talks with the DfE, we are now moving towards a system that teachers, parents and pupils can have faith in.”

First published 15 December 2017