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Primary assessment inquiry: we present your views

28 Oct 2016
Written evidence submitted by Jenny Winstanley and Frances Jauch on behalf of Schoolzone
The Education Committee recently invited written submissions about the current state of the primary assessment system. Schoolzone’s research managers have many years’ experience as senior leaders in education-focused research, and two members of staff have very recently left the primary classroom, having experienced the removal of levels and the introduction of the new style SATs. We are submitting evidence as we feel that, on the basis of recent research projects with many primary teachers and senior leaders, the current system of assessment in primary schools needs reforming. We also have first-hand experience, as recent ex-teachers, of the impact of removal of levels and changes to assessment, performance management and school accountability policies.

Are tests suitable for pupils with SEN?

21 Jun 2016
With exam season well under way, there has been a lot of negative press lately about the impact of testing on children’s mental health. This seems to have escalated with the new government plans for every pupil in England to take an on-screen times table test before leaving primary school.

Primary assessment in the white paper

10 May 2016
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 so much 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.

How to get students to university

28 Jan 2016
First, a quick look at the AS level position: UCAS report that the situation is largely unchanged since last year, ie most schools are continuing to offer them, but will continue to revisit this decision, especially once the first exams have been sat for the reformed subjects. So, as far as universities are concerned, AS levels are still likely to be useful in considering applicants. But, they can't be sure that all candidates will have taken them so they need something else to differentiate, too.
 
What else is there? Well, the personal statement will be even more important from now on. Unfortunately, those wonderful people over at the Sutton Trust tell us that this is far from ideal as a means of distinguishing between candidates.

Making subjects comparable

05 Jan 2016
You'd be hard pushed to find anyone who thought that all subjects were comparable in terms of difficulty, who'd say that an A* in textiles was equally difficult to achieve as one in say physics or further maths. We all have our own perceptions of what's more difficult, or worth more: ask anyone giving careers or UCAS advice to students and they'll have a notional hierarchy in mind. So, can they be compared, asks Ofqual...

A* is (re)born

18 Dec 2015
When A* was introduced into the A-level grading system, there was a fair amount of fuss about it being because top universities needed something to distinguish between the highest performing students: grade inflation being held to blame.
Nowadays though, it seems to have become accepted. We might expect though, given that the A-levels are being reformed, that Ofqual could have re-labelled the grades to remove the annoying *. After all, GCSEs are all being relabelled, so why not A-level?

A guide to primary assessment for accountability

01 Dec 2015
This article is intended as an all-you-need-to-know guide to primary assessment for accountability.
Includes sections on:

How to close the gap

24 Nov 2015
Do you ever find yourself saying (or thinking) 'we have a lot of disadvantaged pupils, so obviously our school doesn't do as well by them as less disadvantaged schools'? If so, do you need to think again?
 
Here's what a recent (Nov 2015) NfER report has to say about that: 'Schools with a higher proportion of disadvantaged pupils were associated with higher performance among disadvantaged pupils'.

Key Stage Free

23 Nov 2015
Has KS3 slipped through a space-time confundibulum into a crack between two parallel universes? Is it sitting on a desert island somewhere, lost and forgotten about by all but its closest friends and family? Has it been put away in the attic, where it sits quietly gathering dust? Etc.
By which hyperbole, we mean, does it really exist anymore?

What maths teachers (don't) want

06 Nov 2015
 
We recently reported on the high degree of uncertainty in maths, arising largely out of the fact that the specifications are all very similar, but the exams are completely unknown. The situation was compounded by the fact that three of the four main exam boards had made their first specimen papers too hard, undermining teachers already low trust in these materials.
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