Primary assessment Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Oversight and implementation

1.The Government must introduce longer lead in times for future changes to assessment or standards to mitigate the negative impacts of constant change, and the process of communication must be improved. The time allocated for design and delivery should enable schools to be given thorough information about changes at least a year before they will be implemented, without incremental changes throughout the year. (Paragraph 14)

2.We remain to be convinced that the STA will be able to meet all the recommendations set out in the ‘root and branch’ review. We recommend that the Government should commission a further short review following the 2017 SATs to assess progress made against the recommendations of the internal report, particularly in light of further changes proposed by the Department in its ongoing consultation. (Paragraph 15)

3.There is a lack of clarity over the responsibilities of the Minister, STA and Ofqual through the development process of national curriculum assessments. Additionally, there is a lack of confidence in the STA’s independence from Ministers. (Paragraph 18)

4.An independent panel of experts and teachers should review the development process to improve confidence amongst school leaders and teachers. We recommend an independent review of Ofqual’s role in national curriculum assessments to ascertain whether the regulator should have greater oversight. (Paragraph 19)

Design and development

5.The STA should do more to explain the development process of national curriculum assessments to schools and ensure that teachers have confidence that they are involved from an appropriate stage. The Department and STA should publish plans to improve the test experience for pupils, particularly for reading. (Paragraph 26)

6.The balance of evidence we received did not support the proposition that focusing on specific grammatical techniques improved the overall quality of writing. We support the Department’s proposal to use a ‘best fit’ model for teacher assessment of writing. We recommend the Department should make the Key Stage 2 spelling, punctuation and grammar test non-statutory, but still available for schools for internal monitoring. As well as short term changes to writing assessment, the Government should carry out a thorough evaluation of the reliability of teacher assessment judgements and reconsider whether it is appropriate to use these judgements for accountability purposes. (Paragraph 36)

7.We welcome the Rochford review and look forward to seeing the implementation of its conclusions. (Paragraph 38)

Support and training

8.National curriculum levels were removed without enough support in place for schools to implement their own assessment systems successfully. Many schools have now adopted ineffective assessment systems. (Paragraph 47)

9.Professional development training on effective assessment procedures should be carried out by senior leaders and classroom teachers after ITE. This should include assessment for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum assessments. The Government should provide adequate resource for this training as part of its commitment to continuing professional development. (Paragraph 48)

10.The availability of more high quality advice and guidance would mitigate the risk of schools purchasing low-quality assessment systems from commercial providers. The Government must make that advice and guidance available. This could include a more developed ‘item bank’ of case studies, professional development training, guidance on good assessment and links to research into effective assessment. (Paragraph 49)

Impact of high-stakes assessment

11.Many teachers reported ‘teaching to the test’, narrowing of the curriculum and increased pressure and workload as a result of statutory assessment and accountability. Although Ofsted is required to monitor whether schools are teaching a broad and balanced curriculum, reports suggest there is often too strong a focus on English and maths teaching. (Paragraph 58)

12.Ofsted should ensure that it reports on a broad and balanced curriculum in every primary school report. Every report should specifically include science as a core subject alongside English and maths, as well as a range of other areas of the curriculum and extra-curricular activities. (Paragraph 59)

13.School leaders and governors should support a culture of wellbeing amongst staff and pupils and ensure that external assessment does not result in unnecessary stress for pupils. The Government should assess the impact of changes to curriculum and standards on teacher and pupil wellbeing before they are introduced and publish plans to avoid such negative consequences. (Paragraph 60)


14.Many of the negative effects of assessment are in fact caused by the use of results in the accountability system rather than the assessment system itself. Key Stage 2 results are used to hold schools to account at a system level, to parents, by Ofsted, and results are linked to teachers’ pay and performance. We recognise the importance of holding schools to account but this high-stakes system does not improve teaching and learning at primary school. (Paragraph 66)

15.The Government should change what is reported in performance tables to help lower the stakes associated with them and reduce issues of using data from a small number of pupils. We recommend publishing a rolling three year average of Key Stage 2 results instead of results from a single cohort. Yearly cohort level data should still be available for schools for use in their own internal monitoring. (Paragraph 67)

16.We welcome the increased focus on progress in performance measures and the Government’s commitment to introduce an improved baseline measure. However, in its consultation document, the Government fails to appreciate potential harmful consequences of introducing a baseline measure used for school accountability in reception (Paragraph 76)

17.The Government must conduct a thorough evaluation of potentially harmful consequences of introducing any baseline measure, involving early years experts and practitioners, including impacts on pupil wellbeing and teaching and learning. The primary purpose of a measure of children at age 4 should be a diagnostic tool to help early years practitioners identify individual needs of pupils and should only be carried out through teacher assessment. We welcome the Government’s commitment that no data from a baseline will be used to judge individual pupils or schools. (Paragraph 77)

18.For future reforms, the Government should carefully consider the impact of setting thresholds for schools with short lead in times. We agree with the Government’s aim of raising standards at primary school but think that setting extremely challenging targets only leaves many students feeling they have failed, when in a previous year they would have succeeded. Expected standards should be raised over a much longer time period to give schools a chance to adjust to new expectations. (Paragraph 84)

19.We recommend a thorough review of how Ofsted inspectors use Key Stage 2 data to inform their judgements and whether inspectors rely too heavily on data over observation. This could include a pilot of inspections where data is only considered following the inspection. (Paragraph 85)

28 April 2017