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Swift and lasting solutions are needed to avoid another year of assessment chaos

Today, school leaders gather in Birmingham for the NAHT Annual Conference, with the issue of assessment high on the agenda. Ninety-eight per cent of primary leaders who responded to NAHT’s Assessment Pledge believe the government’s testing regime is chaotic and distracting.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT said: “Schools and parents cannot face another year of assessment chaos. Now is the time to call for a better system of assessment - one that works for parents, pupils and teachers, rather than one that just ticks boxes for bureaucrats and politicians. We reaffirm our offer to the government to work with us to get it right next year, but they have to listen hard now.”

Serious mistakes have been made in the planning and implementation of tests this year, with a negative effect on children’s education. The tests no longer help teachers to teach or provide reliable information to parents about the progress of their children.

The key mistakes include:

  • Late publication and frequent changes in the middle of the year
  • Inappropriate content
  • Lack of clarity on standards and contradictory guidelines
  • A focus on tick-box skills rather than the quality of work
  • Lack of time to implement the new curriculum
  • Serious errors on the design of a reception baseline, leading to its cancellation
  • Leaked content for the Grammar, Punctuation & Spelling test

Mr Hobby continued: “Testing has a role to play in the assessment of children, but the poorly designed tests and last minute changes we have seen this year do not add value to teaching. Increasingly, parents and teachers agree that high-stakes statutory tests like SATs can actually make it harder to find out what children are really learning and to improve their education.

“School leaders spend a lot of their time listening to parents. Quite rightly they expect us to get on and manage assessment and testing without creating stress on pupils or teachers. Additionally, our conversations with parents show that they want tests and assessments which help schools understand their children – on a regular basis with lower stakes – rather than what are fast becoming high profile high pressure exams.

“We want to find a clearer, simpler system that gives parents and schools the information they need to improve children’s learning. We cannot endure a repeat of this chaos. The government must step back from its piecemeal, last minute changes and engage with the profession now – well in advance of next year – in a fundamental review of assessment from reception to key stage three. There is much that we can achieve if we work together.”

First published 15 December 2017