What we know - and don't know - about primary assessment

Thanks to deputy headteacher Michael Tidd for this article

No sooner have we finished one set of Key Stage assessments, than attention inevitably turns to the next lot! But things are a little different this year. We’ve had minor tweaks before, of course, but usually with a little more notice. Summer 2016 is looking to be rather different.

So, what do we know for certain – and what still remains unanswered?

Early Years

We know…

Schools have been volunteering to trial Reception Baseline Assessments, which will take place for the first time in 2015. Most schools are likely to take part from 2016 when the EYFS profile becomes optional, although in theory there’s no compulsion to use a baseline at all. However, schools who don’t use one will find themselves being judged purely on attainment in 2022 – which is not as far away as it seems.

We don’t yet know…

How the outcomes of the tests will be compared, with schools completing one of several completely different tests (of which the DfE are still yet to confirm the final approved list).

Key Stage 1

We know…

The phonics test remains in Year 1, and for those who do not reach the required standard again in Year 2.

The big changes are in Year 2 where a new grammar test will be introduced alongside new versions of the reading and maths tests. All of these will produce a scaled score instead of a level outcome. Teacher Assessment will still be required for all those areas as well as speaking & listening and science.

We don’t yet know…

Quite what those tests will look like! We’ve seen sample questions but not what a full test might look like, and much less what sort of score will be needed to reach the ‘expected’ standard. Full example tests should arrive before the end of term.

We also have no idea what teachers will be judging their teacher assessments against. Drafts of the ‘performance descriptors’ were published last autumn and roundly criticised. Official word from the DfE is that replacements will be published in September, although we may get information sooner.

Key Stage 2

We know…

As with Key Stage 1, new tests will be introduced from next summer that match the new curriculum. The range of tests will be similar to at present – reading, grammar, punctuation & spelling and maths, although the mental maths test is replaced by a written arithmetic assessment instead. Again, we know that instead of levels pupils will be given a score for each test, which has been adjusted so that 100 represents the expected standard.

The DfE has also announced its intention to invite schools to participate in trials of phonics screening in Year 3.

We don’t yet know…

Once again, we’re waiting on full example tests to be made available next month, and performance descriptors in due course to be clear about exactly what these expectations are for 11-year-olds. Hopefully when the tests are published, they will also shed some light on recording attainment for higher attainers. The original information from the DfE said that schools would also be judged on the percentage of pupils attaining a score above a certain threshold – but we still don’t know what that will be.

Progress measures remain a mystery too, and may well continue to do so for some time. Schools will need to ensure that pupils make ‘sufficient progress’ during Key Stage 2 to avoid falling below the floor standard, but ‘sufficient progress’ won’t be defined until after the first set of tests.

We also don’t know whether the government’s trial of phonics screening in Year 3 will lead to a statutory assessment for those pupils who don’t “pass” the check in either Year 1 or Year 2.

Between statutory tests

We know…

The DfE has been quite clear that it does not intend to replace levels, and that schools are free to devise their own tracking and assessment systems for other year groups. We also know that Ofsted have given guidance to inspectors to accept data provided in any form, and to use books and other evidence of work to judge the accuracy of assessment in schools.

We don’t yet know…

If that freedom has achieved what the DfE set out to do. It’s clear that the confusion in the profession about what is expected (from both the DfE and Ofsted) has led to paralysis in some areas and duplication in others. The commission on assessment without levels set up earlier in the year will hopefully shed some light when it reports – before the end of term – on recommendations for schools in tackling this brave new world.

This all seems rather rushed, given that the original announcement of the removal of levels is now more than two years old. Nevertheless, the coming weeks and months should hopefully shed some light for schools on where things are going and what is expected. It’s going to be a busy summer!

Keep visiting this website for further updates which we will share as and when the sample tests are published later this term and we know more about the new assessments.


arithmetic, early years, english, grammar, key stage 1, key stage 2, maths, reading, statutory tests

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