Assessment in primary schools is mostly used for planning purposes, rather than, as in secondary schools, for predicting grades: in other words it’s to serve teaching and learning – ongoing assessment allows primary teachers to plan lessons (“do I need to revisit that topic or can I go on to the next?”) rather than being concerned whether their students are meeting national requirements, as at secondary. The removal of NC levels is often seen as being a cause for concern because of the loss of standardisation they facilitated, but in practice, they were used mostly for planning (“are we moving through the curriculum at the right pace for the year?”). The loss of levels has caused something of a crisis for planning, rather than for assessment.
A bigger issue for most primary schools is the amount of assessment that’s required nationally – and really this concern arises from the fact that SATs and baseline testing don’t contribute anything to the child (unlike at secondary level), but some form of assessment is obviously useful, as elsewhere in the education system. At present, the pace of reform is unrelenting, and this puts ever-increasing pressure on teachers: it’s in this context that we conducted this short survey of teachers about the primary assessment aspects of the current white paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere.