'Current national curriculum assessments are antiquated, unreliable and a waste of time'

In the 6 May issue of TES, we asked several leading figures in education how students should be assessed in primary schools. The likes of Dylan Wiliam, Dame Alison Peacock and Sir Daniel Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation, gave their views. Here is what Keith Topping, professor of educational and social research at the University of Dundee, would like to see implemented
5th May 2016, 6:01pm
Professor Keith Topping

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'Current national curriculum assessments are antiquated, unreliable and a waste of time'

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Standardised tests have some use, but only up to a point and only with children old enough to adapt to them. I would use them on two occasions in primary: at Year 3 and Year 5.

The tests would be of English (essentially reading, since speaking, listening and writing are too hard to assess by such tests), mathematics and thinking. The three subject tests would take place in consecutive weeks. The test would be scored by an agency outside the school and the results fed back to teachers, children and parents.

In addition, children should take computer-based adaptive item-banked tests of reading and mathematics. The minimum requirement would be that they were taken once in each year, but being item-banked they could be taken more often if anyone wished.

Teachers should be required to assess the performance of each child subjectively on two occasions during each year. The requirement to do this on two occasions is an onerous one, so the nature of assessment should be brief on each occasion.

Brief assessment

The first assessment should be done around mid-term in the first term, and focus on what the teacher hopes to achieve with that child during the rest of the year. Specific objectives should be set.

The second assessment should be done at the end of the year and assess to what extent the objectives were met and whether there were any other growth or decline points that were unexpected.

I would consider adding forms of peer assessment in Years 3-6, but this would be for immediate gain, rather than any summative purpose.

I would completely do away with current national curriculum assessments, which are antiquated, unreliable and a waste of time.

Keith Topping is professor of educational and social research at the University of Dundee

To read what the other leading figures in education think assessment at primary should look like, read the 6 May edition of TES. Subscribers can read the article online here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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