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Rethink needed on reforms to primary league tables, report warns


Ministers should rethink their proposed reforms to primary league tables and focus on pupils' progress rather than attainment, a report released today has said. 

As of next year, primary schools will be held to account by a tougher regime with at least 85 per cent of Year 6 pupils expected to reach the required standards, up from the current 65 per cent threshold. 

Like now, schools not reaching this threshold will be judged on the progress of their pupils, but as the threshold rises it will become more important for schools to ensure pupils make good progress.

Now the think tank CentreForum has called for the government to adopt the progress measure as its headline accountability measure, claiming judging schools by their pupils' progress was the "fairest" measure. 

James Kempton, associate director for education and social mobility at CentreForum and co-author of the report, said: “When it comes to judging the impact schools are making, the best and fairest measure is to assess the progress that all pupils make whilst they are in the school.

"Attainment thresholds always mean that some pupils’ success is more important to the school’s league table place than others. That is not fair and at odds with the government’s own aims for the education system.”

The report was backed by the likes of Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, and Graham Stuart, chair of the Commons Education Select Committee. 

But in order to judge schools on pupils' progress from reception, rather than Year 2 as is now the case, will require the introduction of new baseline tests for four and five year olds within the first few weeks of school, something that has been met with serious opposition from critics. 

Early years experts have even have launched a last-ditch petition to try and stop the introduction of the tests.

The government announced it would be going ahead with the controversial exams in March last year and is due to announce which tests have been approved in the coming weeks.

Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of Early Education, said the organisation had launched the petition last week because of on-going concerns about the assessments.

"We feel there is still time for the government to change its mind and we want all parties to put it [scrapping the baseline] in their manifesto for after the election," she said.

“The baseline assessment will take up staff time just when they want to help children settle into school. It is not age adjusted so a child of four years and 11 months will be measured against one who is four years and one day and there will be multiple tests, so how comparable will they really be?” 

A spokesman for the DfE said that the attainment measure was needed because too many pupils were leaving primary schools without mastering the basics of reading, writing and maths.

Related stories:

Early years education must be an election priority, say campaigners 23 April 2014

Tests for four-year-olds to be introduced by 2016 27 March 2014

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