Heads' union launches review of assessment in response to 'alienating' government reforms

24th May 2016 at 10:25
heads union sets up assessment review group
Independent review panel will look at primary and key stage 3 assessment and aims to 'go some way towards helping to fix a broken system'

The NAHT headteachers' union has set up its own independent review of assessment, warning that the government's reforms of the system have alienated a "substantial proportion" of teachers and a growing number of parents. 

The review will take in primary and key stage 3 assessment. It will consider current assessment procedures, statutory testing, the role of teacher assessment, transition between phases, accountability requirements and overall coherence. 

The review will be led by panel of heads and experts which will also include representatives of the ATL classroom teachers' union. Representatives from the Department for Education, Ofqual, Ofsted and the Standards and Testing Agency will be invited to attend.

Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary, said: “NAHT has set up this independent assessment group to find a way to make the system work better for children, for parents, for teachers, for school leaders and even for government.

"We know we need to be accountable and we know that assessment – and even testing – is an important part of the education system. But this must be proportionate and focused on improving the learning of pupils.

'The profession takes the lead'

"This is a chance to start a more constructive dialogue, with the profession in the lead. Without such dialogue, the prospects for next year look bleak.

“We are delighted that a range of practitioners and education experts have agreed to sit on the panel. We hope to produce a report with purposeful recommendations to the primary assessment system up to key stage 3.”

Members of the review group will include Professor Dame Alison Peacock, headteacher of The Wroxham School in Hertfordshire, who organised the #LearningFirst grass-roots conference on assessment which took place in Sheffield on Saturday, and assessment expert Professor Robert Coe, from Durham University.

Michael Tidd, deputy head of Edgewood Primary in Nottinghamshire and a TES columnist, will also be on the review group. It will be chaired by Dave Ellison, deputy head teacher of Foxfield primary in Woolwich, south-east London.

Mr Ellison said: "Like everyone else involved in primary assessment, I have been disappointed and concerned by the recent crisis in assessment, with mistakes and misjudgements making the system not fit for purpose.

“The assessment group will take a detailed look at the best evidence available on what an assessment system should look like, from both here and abroad. We look forward to welcoming representatives from the DfE and elsewhere, and hope our report will go some way to help fix a broken system.”

The new tougher Sats were introduced this year, to reflect the new national curriculum which was introduced in 2014.

But the process of changing primary assessment has been described by unions as “massive, rushed and chaotic”. Unions have previously called for the government to undertake a full rethink of the primary assessment system following a series of U-turns and mishaps, including the scrapping of baseline measures, repeated clarifications of teacher assessment and leaked test papers.

A Department for Education spokesperson it had reformed the curriculum to help ensure all children leave primary school having “mastered the basics”.

"We are determined to get this right and remain committed to working with teachers and headteachers as we continue with our primary assessment reform," they said.

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