Assessment and accountability for primary schools: What is proposed and what does it mean?

The government has finally published its long awaited response to the consultation on primary school assessment and accountability, which closed in October 2013. The response is published in the 24 page document called Reforming assessment and accountability for primary schools. The consultation gathered responses from 1187 individuals and organisations, of which 27% were from primary school headteachers and a further 27% from primary teachers.

The stated aims are two-fold. First, to ‘set high expectations so that all children can reach their potential and are well prepared for secondary school’ so that no child is allowed to fall behind  and second,  ‘to celebrate the progress that pupils make in schools with more challenging intakes’.

So what is proposed?

To help schools identify the key challenges posed by the proposals, Rising Stars has provided the following short overview of the key points from the document.

Day-to-day assessment

  1. The document states thatnationalassessments will take place at key points during a child’s primary education, but makes clear that at other times there will be no national prescription. Teachers will therefore be free to use their own methods for day-to-day assessment of their pupils, to inform teaching and to feedback to pupils and parents about attainment and progress.
  2. The document emphasises that good teachers assess children on a regular basis. To help with this the government launched an ‘Assessment Innovation Fund’ in December for schools or groups to bid for up to £10,000 each to develop easy-to-use approaches to pupil assessment for other schools to use free of charge. The expectation was that up to 10 bids would be successful with the results announced towards the end of April. No information has been provided as to when the approaches will be available for other schools to download and use.

National assessments: Overview

The new national assessments have two stated purposes: to provide standard information to parents and to give a picture of school performance. To complement day-to-day teacher assessment there will be:

  • the existing progress check of two-year-old children;
  • a new short baseline assessment in reception (which is likely to cover both English and mathematics because these are the subjects against which progress will be measured at the end of Key Stage 2);
  • a phonics check near the end of Year 1;
  • teacher assessment in mathematics, reading and writing at the end of Key Stage 1 (KS1) informed by scores in externally-set, but internally-marked tests. Also, teacher assessment of speaking and listening and science;
  • national tests at the end of Key Stage 2 (KS2) in mathematics, reading, grammar, punctuation and spelling. Also teacher assessment of mathematics, reading, writing and science.

National assessments in detail

  1. This is new. The plan is that the baseline will be used from September 2015 with the first progress assessment against that baseline being made in 2022 when the children starting reception in 2015 will reach the end of KS2. In 2022 progress will be measured usingeitherthe baseline or KS1 results – whichever shows the most progress.

The document gives little detail about this assessment other than that it will ‘sit within teachers’ broader assessments of children’s development’ and focus on the key building blocks of learning (counting and picture and letter and number recognition). It will be administered by reception teachers. We will publish updates on this website as and when more information is available about the nature of the baseline assessment.

  1. For children entering reception in September 2016 the baseline will be used as progress floor standard for all-through primary schools. However schools can choose not to carry out a baseline assessment in which case they will be measured on attainment only.

It appears therefore that the baseline assessment is not statutory although schools might feel it too risky to be judged purely on their end of KS2 attainment data (see below).

  1. The proposal is that schools select from a list of approved assessments i.e. the government is not planning to develop a single national assessment.

There is no indication as to when the list will be published, but one of the criteria for inclusion on the list is that the assessment must be able to demonstrate that it is a strong predictor of attainment at KS1 and KS2.

This raises some interesting questions about reliability and comparability of outcomes if different assessments are used by schools, especially as those outcomes will be used as the baseline against which pupil progress will be measured. There is clearly more work needed here as the document says that consideration is still to be made as to ‘how to communicate results from a reception baseline to parents and to Ofsted’. We will publish updates on this website as and when more information is available.

  1. Tests that are externally set but internally marked continue as before but with new tests to reflect the new curriculum from summer 2016. The output of the tests will be scaled scores. A scaled score is defined as‘a score where 100 will represent the new expected standard for that stage’. The scaled scores will inform teacher assessment.

Little detail is given about scaled scores other than pupils with a score of 100 or above will have met the new standard and those with a score of less than 100 will not.  It is not clear how the scaled score will relate to current measures for KS1.

  1. In Autumn 2014 new performance descriptors will be introduced to inform statutory teacher assessment. Results will be ‘expressed by the performance indicator a child most closely meets’. There will be just one descriptor for science but several for mathematics, reading, writing and speaking and listening.

It will be interesting to see how the new performance descriptors differ from the current level descriptions. It is also not clear why there will be one descriptor for science but several for the other subjects. When further information becomes available we will publish details on this website.

  1. As there are concerns about the robustness of teacher assessment in KS1, the DfE plans to work with Ofsted and schools to improve moderation.

No indication is given as to what this work might entail nor the timescales. When we know more, we will update this website.

  1. New, more challenging, externally set and marked national tests will be introduced from 2016 for use at the end of KS2 in mathematics, reading and GPS. Sampling tests for science will continue as will teacher assessments for mathematics, reading, writing and science.
  2. As for KS1, new performance descriptors will be introduced. There will be several for writing but one each for science, reading and mathematics. The performance descriptors will be used by schools to report on whether or not a pupil has met the new standard.

As with KS1, it is not clear why there will be multiple performance descriptors for one subject (writing) but only one for others. It is also not yet clear how the descriptors will be used in practice e.g. a pass/fail, met/not met judgement or similar.

  1. The output from the reading, mathematics and GPS national tests will be scaled scores. Parents will receive details of their own child’s score, the average score for the school, local area and nationally.

The original proposal for children to be ranked by decile has been dropped due to concerns expressed about the impact on children. There were also concerns that such information may be misunderstood by parents. Currently schools report National Curriculum levels to parents for the child alongside the school and national averages. The addition of local area is new and is not defined.

  1. Teacher assessment will continue for pupils who are unable to access the end of key stage tests. P-scales will remain unchanged (apart from the renaming of ICT and MfL to computing and languages respectively).
  2. Further information is to be provided for pupils unable to access the tests but who are working above the P-scales but no time line is stated. Inspection will remain the main school accountability mechanism for these pupils. The possibility of external moderation is being considered.
  1. Floor standards are also set to continue and will become even more challenging. In future schools are to be held to account for how well pupils achieve and on the progress they make. Schools will only be considered to have met the floor standard if pupils make sufficient progress in all of reading, writing and mathematics. The target for attainment is that 85% of pupils meet the standard to prepare them for secondary school. The new standard is defined as being ‘similar to level 4b’.

Note that the new target is a considerable jump from the current 65% target especially as it also relates to a more challenging National Curriculum.

  1. In future an all-through primary school will be above the standard ifeitherpupils make sufficient progress at KS2 from their starting point in the reception baseline or 85% hit the new end of KS2 standard. For junior and middle schools, progress will be measured from the end of KS1 results.

Note that the document appears to give contradictory information in this section. It begins by saying that schools will be held to account on progress and achievement but then states that schools will be above the floor standard if they have met the progress or the attainment target. Given the baseline assessment appears to be non-statutory presumably it is the latter.  As stated earlier it will be interesting to see whether this affects whether schools decide to carry out a baseline assessment or not as if they don’t they can only be judged on attainment.


There are new requirements for what schools must publish on their websites. The requirements are:

  • average progress made by pupils in reading, writing and mathematics
  • % pupils achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics at the end of KS2
  • average score of pupils in end of KS2 assessments
  • % pupils who achieve a ‘high’ score (not defined) in all areas at the end of KS2.

Summary timeline

September 2014 Teaching of new National Curriculum begins for pupils in Years 1, 3, 4 and 5
Autumn 2014 End of KS1 and KS2 performance descriptors published
Summer 2015 Last end of Key Stage assessments for current National Curriculum (with results published as National Curriculum levels for the final time)
September 2015 ·         Teaching of new National Curriculum begins for pupils in Years 2 and 6

·         First reception baseline assessments taken

·         Last year of compulsory EYFS Profile

Summer 2016 ·         First new KS1 and KS2 national assessments

·         First reporting against the new performance descriptors and use of scaled scores

·         Floor target of 85% introduced

Summer 2022 Schools judged on the best of progress from reception baseline to end KS2 or just end of KS2 attainment

Browse this site for further up-to-date information and advice on assessment and the new curriculum.

Find out more about Rising Stars New Curriculum Assessment


baseline assessment, english, formative assessment, grammar, key stage 1, key stage 2, maths, reading, science, spelling, summative assessment

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