'There is a still a long way to go before we can say the problems with primary assessment are in any way resolved'

9th March 2016 at 14:58
Primary assessment
We may have seen some improvements in the DfE's clarification document yesterday, writes the leader of a heads' union. But there's still much to be cleared up

The government has published further clarification on the writing teacher assessment for 2016. Although we've pushed hard for this, and there is some progress, I wouldn't want anyone to get the impression we think that this solves all the problems.

Let's start with the positive. You do not need to use the exemplification materials and checklists. At all. If you are asked for them, you do not need to provide them and you can rely on your own evidence and judgement. This evidence can be generated by essentially the same process as last year. No tick lists. No prior stages. Neither Leigh nor Morgan.

You can change the results right up to the submission date if pupils continue to make progress. And the moderation is back to being a dialogue as last year.

This is not huge but, deployed properly, it could help some of the workload of Year 2 and Year 6 staff, which does matter. Let's take advantage of this.

The controversial bit: 4b or 5c? The government claims 4b; teachers don't agree. The materials and checklists certainly don't help, so teachers are right to be sceptical. But you don't have to use them or respond to demands based on them. What we do have, which is what I want to draw attention to, is that the government has put in writing, rightly or wrongly, that the standard is supposed to be equivalent to a 4b and that they expect you to use your professional judgement based on the evidence you are used to collecting. We also have a commitment not to intervene in schools on the basis of 2016 data alone. Can we make something of all that together? Perhaps with a bit more work.

Is it enough? No. Is it right that we're dealing with this now? No. Does it address the exclamation mark controversy? No! Is it going to be better next year? There is no reason to be confident. So the job isn't over.

We need a better approach to assessment from the ground up. We need a better approach on administration and communication and we need a better approach on content. If you want to help us work for this, then please consider adding your name to our Pledge, which will give us the mandate to proceed.

Russell Hobby is general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union. He tweets as @russellhobby

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