Teachers' leaders have given a cautious welcome to the government’s decision to review primary assessment and scrap plans for Year 7 Sats resits that unions say would have been "toxic".
In a written statement to Parliament this afternoon, education secretary Justine Greening also pledged that there would be no new national tests or assessments introduced until 2018/19.
The NAHT, ATL and NUT unions had all been threatening a boycott of next summer's Sats if changes to primary assessment were not made. Top of the list of their demands for action was a rethink on the proposed Year 7 resits, closely followed by concerns over the reading test and writing assessment.
The unions have yet to lift that threat following this afternoon's announcement, but they are clear that it is a step in the right direction.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, said he was pleased that Ms Greening had listened to teachers' and school leaders' concerns.
“In the short term, there are proposals to correct some of the difficulties we faced last year,” he said. “We will now present these changes to our members to seek their views. We will want to look closely at the proposals on accountability in particular.”
But the union’s president, Kim Johnson, said he was concerned that the government has not addressed concerns about the way writing will be assessed at the end of primary this year. “At present, the system seriously disadvantages pupils with special education needs and dyslexia,” he said.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “The recognition that there were problems with the 2015/16 data, and that because of this no schools should face harsh sanctions solely on the basis of that data, is a welcome step towards relieving the pressure and anxiety some schools have been experiencing.
“However, the government must now use the space it has created with today’s announcement on assessment to ensure that the outcome delivers real progress in reducing, not increasing, the already intense workload burdens on teachers and school leaders, whilst also ensuring that schools are judged on the right things in the right way.”
Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the ATL, said: “Children, parents and teachers will be relieved that the toxic proposal to force children to resit their SATs tests in their first year of secondary school has been shelved.”
Ms Greening has pledged that the consultation on primary assessment in the new year will be considering the best starting point for measuring progress, after the previous baseline proposals for reception year were scrapped in April.
There had been discussions about introducing a “school readiness indicator”, but in her statement today, Ms Greening said that the existing early years foundation stage profile would remain in place in 2017/18.