Sunday, 2 April 2017

Primary Assessment 8.0 - Time for a Reboot

2017 marked the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, and in the last decade, we have seen multiple updates to IOS software and the ubiquitous smartphone. Before issuing new software, Apple invites people to test-drive new products through their Beta Software Program. 2016 saw the introduction of the new assessments for primary aged children, and it has felt like we have been putting our teachers and children through 2 years of beta testing.  In the coming 12 weeks, we have time take stock and design a better system via the Government’s primary assessment consultation.

In all beta test scenarios, there are successes, areas to develop and complete and epic fails. Google Glass seemed like a very good idea and next big step change in personal technology, but extensive beta testing has led to the project being parked. Other products make it through the stages of product development and then literally crash and burn. The Galaxy Note 7 spontaneously combusted, in 2016,  and was subsequently banned from airplanes!

Below, I reflect on the successes, the areas for improvement and the Galaxy Notes of the 2016 and 2017 primary assessment arrangements.


•    Assessments based on a slimmed-down curriculum that focuses on core knowledge and application.
•    Scaled scores- a more sophisticated tool for quantifying progress and measuring attainment than the previous system.
•    The arithmetic and mathematics tests were fair and received positively by teachers and school leaders.
•    The 2016 SPAG paper was more child-friendly than the sample paper.

Areas for Development

•    The texts and sequencing of questions in the SATS reading paper.
•    Cliff edge pass and fail labels attached to a scaled score. Reporting a scaled score to parents is surely more humane that giving children age-related labels at 11.
•    Accountability measure for floor standards.  Either move to progress only measures or review the attainment measure in light of the more challenging curriculum.

The Galaxy Notes

•    “Secure fit” applied to the interim assessment framework for writing.
•    Moderation of writing across local authorities.
•    Progress measures based on KS1 prior attainment.

This week under Secretary of State, Justine Greening, announced a 12-week consultation into the future of primary assessment.

The consultation asks educators and parents to reflect on some big questions, which include:

•    Removing “secure fit” for writing and replacing it with a best-fit approach.
•    Removing statutory KS1 tests as a baseline for measuring progress in primary schools.
•    The introduction of an effective and simple baseline assessment.
•    Measuring whole school progress from baseline.
•    Peer to peer moderation and further exploration of comparative approaches to assessing writing.
•    The introduction of computer-based times table test, possibly at the end of year 4.
•    New arrangements for junior schools, to recognize their particular challenges.

After a challenging two years, of beta testing the new assessment arrangements, I wholeheartedly support the proposals above. I congratulate Ministers and Officials at the DFE for listening to the profession and initiating a consultation that has the potential to make a huge difference to learners, teachers, and schools.

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