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An update for primary members on Ofsted, performance data, exams and assessment

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A message from NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman to members

As you will be aware from my previous emails, NAHT has been in intensive talks with the government throughout this term. We have been making members’ views clear on key issues, such as Ofsted, primary statutory assessment, exams and accountability measures.

Today I can give you an important update about the progress we have made across a number of these key areas.

Below, I have outlined the package of measures that the government is announcing today. While these measures do not go as far as we would like, I hope you will see that they represent significant progress from where we were in September when the government’s message was that all primary statutory assessment and performance tables would go ahead as usual and that Ofsted would be returning to routine inspection in January.

I hope that these measures could relieve a little of the intolerable pressure that school leaders are currently under. As a result of this news, the vast majority of you can now be assured that you will not be inspected next term, and the small percentage who could receive a visit from Ofsted should experience a process that is supportive, not punitive.

I know that many of you may feel that the government needs to go further. I want to reassure you that we will now continue our work across all of these key issues. There are a number of specific areas where we will be seeking greater clarity (for example, we know that scrapping performance tables alone does not solve all the problems associated with primary statutory assessments). We will be pushing for the government to confirm that there will be no unhelpful or misleading use of data in either Analyse School Performance (ASP) or the Inspection Data Summary Report (IDSR).

I can also reassure you that we remain firmly focused on all the other more immediate challenges school leaders are currently facing. We are particularly concerned about the expectations on our members to support track and trace over the Christmas break; we have been continuing to actively pursue that, along with other issues, this week.

There will also be no let-up in our campaign to persuade the government to reimburse you fully for all of your covid-secure costs.

Here’s a breakdown of the measures in full.


Routine (section 5) inspections of all schools remain suspended for the whole of the spring term at least.

No further section 8 ‘interim visits’ will take place (as occurred in the autumn term).

From January 2021, Ofsted will only undertake section 8 monitoring inspections in some schools, such as the following:

  • Inadequate schools (schools in special measures or serious weaknesses)
  • Schools judged as ‘requires improvement’ at two consecutive section 5 inspections
  • A small number of schools judged as ‘requires improvement’ at their most recent section 5 inspection that are considered to be vulnerable.

We have been told that these monitoring visits will take account of the last inspection report. But the focus of the monitoring visits will be to support improvement to becoming a ‘good’ school, rather than making a judgement as to whether the school is taking effective action against the areas for improvement identified at the last inspection.

Ofsted may use its ‘no formal designation’ procedures to inspect under section 8 where there are serious concerns that there may be a breakdown in leadership and management and/or where pupils and staff may not be safe. The school may then be prioritised for a section 5 inspection when routine inspections restart.

Performance data

There will be no school-level data from tests, exams and assessments published on performance tables for key stage two, key stage four or key stage five.

Instead, school-level information will be published on destinations data for key stage four and key stage five, curriculum choices at key stage four and key stage five, and attendance for primary and secondary schools. The attendance data will be supported with contextual information and caveats, and the Department for Education (DfE) has committed to working with us on the details of this.

The DfE will publish some national and regional statistics for key stages two, four and five.

Some school-level data will be provided in ASP and IDSR. Following representations from NAHT, the DfE has committed to working with us on the caveats, training and presentation of this data, recognising that it will not be comparable to previous or future years and that school-to-school comparison would be highly problematic.  

Primary assessment

The multiplication tables check will be non-statutory, so it does not have to be administered by schools in 2021.

The grammar, punctuation and spelling test at key stage two will also be non-statutory, so it does not have to be administered in 2021.

Key stage one assessment in reading, writing and maths will be by teacher assessment only. The tests used to inform teacher assessment at key stage one will be non-statutory, and no new key stage one tests will be made available in 2021.

There will be no teacher assessment of science in 2021 at either key stage one or key stage two.

Key stage one phonics and the autumn term year two additional phonics check will go ahead. However, we have continued to press the government regarding the year two check. As a result, the guidance will be updated tomorrow to give more clarity on the use of the data. We expect it to state the following: “Data from the autumn year two phonics check will not be used in Analyse School Performance or in performance tables, or the Inspection Data Summary Report (IDSR) and local authorities will not use this data for accountability purposes.”

Key stage two Sats in reading and maths and teacher assessment of writing will go ahead in 2021. The administration of these will be made more flexible with an extended timetable variation window.

GCSEs and A levels

The government has also published its final plans for GCSEs and A levels for this year. You can read a summary of that here.

I know that members will now want to reflect on what this means for them and their schools, but I hope that you will see much of the detail above as positive developments. As I have already made clear, we will now continue our work across all of these areas.  

First published 03 December 2020