Letter to the Chairman from Jim Knight
MP, Minister of State for Schools and Learners, Department for
Children, Schools and Families
I would like to take this opportunity to update
you on the Making Good Progress pilot which started in
September last year.
The Making Good Progress pilot is testing
new ways to measure, assess, report and stimulate progress in
our schools. It involves pupils in Key Stage 2 and 3 and is running
between September 2007 and July 2009 in 455 schools. We are providing
more than £20m for the pilot in the academic year 2007-08.
The cornerstone of the Making Good Progress
pilot is developing and improving teachers' assessment skills
to focus on moving children on in their learning. Sharper use
of assessment, better pupil tracking and better planning by schools
to help each child to progress perfectly illustrates assessment
for learning, which is central to our drive to raise standards
for all children. We are investing a substantial amount in this,
£150 million will be spent on improving assessment for learning
practice in all schools between 2008-09 and 2010-11.
The main focus is on assessment for learning.
Other elements of the pilot are:
one-to-one tuition of up to 20 hours
in English and/or maths to pupils behind national expectations
who are still making slow progress;
the introduction of single-level
tests which pupils can take "when ready";
school progression targets; and
a payment for schools which make
outstanding progress with those children who entered the key stage
This combination of measures is intended to
ensure that all pupils, from the very brightest, to those who
enter school below the expected standard for their age, are making
the progress they should. It should encourage regular and better
use of assessment to identify what each child needs to move on.
Schools can call on extra support for those who need it, through
one-to-one tuition, and there are incentives to schools to keep
every child progressing to the next level throughout the key stage.
The pilot provides an important opportunity
to make sure that all children, no matter what their starting
point or background, progress as they should in our schools. Our
strategy is to continue to raise standards for all while ensuring
those who have the furthest to go, or those who are struggling,
get the support they need, when they need it. The focus on progression
will help all pupils, regardless of background or circumstance,
to achieve their potential. It is crucial that we ensure more
pupils make the expected progress through the key stages at school,
especially pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds who have not
kept pace with their peers.
Single level tests are only one part of a coherent
package of progression activity, though much of the attention
on the pilot has focused on the new tests. As you know we committed
in the Children's Plan to roll out single level tests nationally,
subject to positive evidence from the pilot and to endorsement
of this approach from the regulator.
The tests are part of a personalised approach
to learning to ensure every child progresses at their own rate,
rather than having a snapshot of attainment at the end of a key
stage. They are used to confirm teachers' assessment, when they
judge a child is working at the next level. We've just finished
the first round of tests and, as with any new assessment, the
QCA is reviewing the outcomes to refine the model.
Local Authorities and schools are positive about
the principle of Single Level Tests. But the pilot is crucial
to enable us to get the model and delivery of it rightthis
is only the first of four test windows in the pilot.
The first round of tests took place in December.
22,543 pupils took 42,833 new tests at Levels 3-6. There have
been some unexpected patterns in the results which we needed to
investigate. This is not unusual in piloting new tests, but it
did mean a short delay in releasing their results to participating
schools whilst the National Assessment Agency (NAA) reviewed the
The results were made available to schools on
7 February, together with some explanation of the factors that
may have caused unusual patterns of performance. Although we do
not at this stage have a full explanation for this we are clearer
about what the likely factors are. NAA are doing further work
to feed lessons learnt into the next round of tests.
NAA's investigation found that a number of factors
are likely to have combined to produce unusual outcomes, with
variations in performance between KS2 and KS3 pupils taking the
same test and at some of the levels tested:
inappropriate entry, with a number
of pupils entered who had a teacher assessment that was lower
than would have been expected if the pupil was secure within the
level being entered for;
the new style of test with questions
pitched at a single level, rather than a range of three levels,
will have been unfamiliar both to pupils and to markers; It may
be that pupils perceived the test as harder without the initial
"warm up" questions to ease them into the tests, as
they are used to in National Curriculum tests;
pupils may have been less motivatedresearch
suggests that pupil motivation for new tests taken in a pilot
may be lower than for National Curriculum statutory tests, and
that this factor may be more marked for pupils in Key Stage 3
than in Key Stage 2;
a number of pupils did not get to
the end of their papers, particularly on higher level papers;
we are mindful that this is the first time pupils would have experienced
national tests of this type and this could have had an impact
on their performance; and
markers are unaccustomed to marking
scripts at a single level from pupils in two key stages.
Of course, one of the main purposes of this
first round of single level tests was to test the tests. It is
not unusual for early trials of new tests to show unexpected results
It is important to recognise that NAA developed
these tests on a much shorter timescale than is typical for test
development, and that this did not allow for the usual pre-testing
that would take place. Nor did they have the benefit of data from
previous tests of this kind. The test development process for
the June tests, whilst still on shorter timescales, will more
closely match that for National Curriculum tests.
We are also working with participating schools
and Local Authority pilot leaders to learn from their experience,
and in particular to understand more fully issues related to teacher
assessment judgements and test entry decisions.
As the two-year pilot develops schools, markers
and all those involved in the administration of these tests will
become more familiar with their use. There are four rounds of
single level tests. Each of them will provide evidence on which
to base an analysis of their effectiveness, and each may be used
to improve and refine the test model. With the June tests we expect
to establish better comparability with the end of Key Stage tests.
At the same time, we are developing assessment for learning to
support teachers in making sound judgements, and in entering pupils
for the tests when they are truly ready. We intend to publish
an interim report on the assessment model in the autumn, reflecting
the experience of schools over the first year of the pilot, and
after two rounds of tests.