Minister gives way to heads' ultimatum by relaxing deadlines for controversial new primary assessments

19th February 2016 at 12:17
Gibb relaxes assessment deadlines

Ministers have moved back the deadlines for the submission of key stage 1 and 2 teacher assessments until the end of June, following complaints about the new system from heads and classroom unions.

As TES revealed last night, the NAHT heads’ union had issued an ultimatum warning that if the Department for Education did not make a “dramatic change” by the end of this week, its members would “act to protect pupils and schools.”

Now schools minister Nick Gibb has written to the association saying he will “for one year only” relax the deadlines, which had been 13 June for KS1 and 22 May for KS2.

He said that he had made the change “in recognition of the unique circumstance of teachers working with a new framework to new standards”.  

NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby, welcomed the change saying: "This is in response to NAHT members’ concerns that the changes proposed so late in the day placed unachievable demands on both teachers and pupils. We advise members to teach as they normally would to the standard they were promised.”

Major increase in workload

Teachers’ concerns emerged after the government published materials for key stage 2 writing assessments last week. Unions believe that they will raise the bar for pupils’ attainment and cause a major increase in teachers’ workload.

The NUT teaching union has called for this year's Sats tests to be suspended in the wake of the new requirements.

Details of the NAHT's ultimatum were set out in an email to members, seen by TES. It said it would be a “travesty” to hold schools to account based on the new standards set out in detail last week. The email said the new expected standard was higher than expected because it was “closer to a 5c than a 4b”.

Materials to help schools implement the new standards were “unusable in the short time we have remaining to us,” it said.

Minimising misunderstandings

The new materials meant teachers – used to making overall holistic judgements on pupils – were faced with the prospect of ticking up 198 boxes and provoked an angry reaction. The NUT claimed that the government’s new system for primary assessment had “come apart at the seams”.

Mr Gibb’s letter promises a ‘clarification’ document to “minimise any misunderstandings regarding assessment arrangements for the 2016 national curriculum tests and teacher assessments”.

“Specifically, we will aim to eliminate misunderstanding leading to unnecessary, additional workload,” it adds.

The minister has also said that Ofsted and schools commissioners and anyone holding schools to account had been made aware of the new arrangements and asked to “consider the impact of this in making any decisions about [school] performance or intervention”.

Mr Hobby said: "We're pleased that the government has listened to head teachers' feedback on the late changes to writing teacher assessment introduced for 2016. Dialogue has led to some productive developments, which is exactly how these things should pan out.

"There are still areas of doubt to resolve and a bigger picture on primary assessment generally about which we are very concerned.”

In a statement today, Mr Gibb added: “We are working constructively with the teaching profession and their representatives to find solutions to some of the remaining issues. The NAHT’s readiness to work with us, rather than use the media to scaremonger, has meant that we have been able to have a sensible discussion.

“As a result we have made changes, which I hope will allay teachers’ concerns about workload and disruption, allowing us to continue working towards the goal we all want to achieve – the best possible education for all our children.”

@wstewarttes

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