The government’s long-awaited consultation on the future of primary assessment, yet to be published as Tes went to press, will include proposals for how the system should change from 2018.
The most pressing issue for schools has been the current confusion over the key stage 2 writing assessments – and in particular the “secure fit” nature of them, meaning that a pupil who meets all but one of the criteria for working at the expected standard is given the same judgement as a pupil who meets hardly any of them.
This has been condemned as discriminatory against dyslexic pupils in particular, who might pass all the elements apart from spelling, but still be judged as “working towards” the writing standard.
The idea behind “secure fit” is to ensure that every pupil who is at a particular standard can do the same core things.
That was lacking under the “best fit” approach used with the previous levels system, which allowed pupils who met most aspects of a standard to be judged as achieving it.
One option could be a return to that “best fit”, but without levels.
An alternative to both would be comparative judgement. Under this approach, teachers assess which of two pieces of writing is better, and computer software is used to repeat the analysis many times and rank work.
Schools minister Nick Gibb has described the approach as having a “potential future” in primary assessment. But the writing assessment is in such disarray that it could be that a quick short-term solution is likely to be on the cards.
MPs have already flagged up the inclusion of two of the most contentious issues: a return of some kind of baseline assessment to enable primary progress to be measured and the introduction of times-tables tests in 2019.
The previous attempt to introduce a baseline assessment prompted widespread concern about the effect of assessment on very young children – with reports that it had led to ability grouping. But its downfall was a decision to approve three different assessments – which an evaluation report found were not comparable. Becky Allen, director of Education Datalab, has told MPs that the government should just choose a single measure and accept “it cannot be perfect”.
See next week’s Tes for an exploration of comparative assessment at primary-level