Primary assessment: Heads welcome new DfE guidance placing more trust in teachers

No specific set tasks or portfolios required from primary schools for moderating writing assessments, government guidance tells local authorities

Helen Ward

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Teachers should not be forced to produce portfolios or set specific writing tasks for their pupils just to generate evidence for local authority moderators, according to new government guidance on how writing is assessed at the end of Year 6.

The new guidance published by the Standards and Testing Agency today adds that local authority moderators should not dictate what schools' evidence should look like or how it is presented for a moderation visit.

The NAHT headteachers’ union has welcomed the guidance, saying that it will help deliver a more “common sense” approach to what is expected of school leaders.

“The guidance now explicitly states that local authorities must not dictate what evidence should look like or how it is presented,” said Mr Hobby. “They should not expect portfolios or checklists of evidence.”

Mr Hobby added that there had also been concerns that teachers’ judgements were not given sufficient weight – but the new guidance puts additional importance on this. “This is an important signal that school leaders and teachers are trusted and their judgements respected,” he said.

The STA’s guidance also makes clear that when pupils' work is judged to show they “consistently” demonstrate a particular skill, this does not mean pupils must demonstrate it 100 per cent of the time.

“Pupils are likely to have improved over the course of the year and may make a mistake with something the teacher knows they are actually secure in,” the guidance states. “In making a decision that a pupil consistently demonstrates attainment…we expect teachers to exercise their professional judgement.”

Writing is assessed at the end of Year 6 by pupils’ own teachers rather than being tested in the same way as maths, reading and spelling, grammar and punctuation. This year 74 per cent of pupils reached the expected standard in writing.

In order to check that teachers’ judgements are consistent across the country, local authorities must moderate the writing – by sending moderators into at least a quarter of their primary schools to check pupils’ work against teachers’ judgements.

But this year, the NAHT and NUT unions had raised concerns about the variations in how moderation was being carried out.

The government announced ealier this month that it would review the primary assessment system next year, after the chaotic introduction of the new Sats in 2016.

Mr Hobby added: “"We urgently need a fundamental rethink of writing assessment, which should take place under the umbrella of the recently announced consultation. In the meantime, these changes improve the current situation.”



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