At last, new rules for assessing pupils – but for how long?

25th September 2015 at 01:00
Heads fear ‘interim’ system will be ‘here today, gone tomorrow’

Primary teachers are facing further upheaval, with the government planning more changes to the way that schools are required to assess their pupils, TES can reveal.

Long-awaited new statutory frameworks for teacher assessment of pupil attainment in Years 2 and 6 were finally published last week. But the accompanying document says the “interim” frameworks are “for 2015 to 2016 only” and the Department for Education is “evaluating options for future years”.

The DfE has declined to comment further. But it is understood that one option under consideration is bringing back national tests for seven-year-olds, a plan first revealed by TES in June (see bit.ly/NationalTests).

Teachers are angry at the prospect of yet more change. Alex Reppold, leader of Pocklington Community Junior School in York, said: “If I, as a headteacher, called something an interim system, my staff would rightly have concerns as to whether it has been thought through properly or whether it’s going to be another ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ system.”

The new statutory teacher assessment frameworks are necessary because of the government’s earlier decision to scrap national curriculum assessment levels, itself a controversial move. The frameworks – which set out what is expected of children in reading, writing, maths and science at ages 7 and 11 – were originally published for consultation in October 2014. But they were so poorly received that the government had to go back to the drawing board.

Michael Tidd, deputy headteacher of Edgewood Primary in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, said: “I am livid. It’s been a year since they published the drafts.

“I thought the reason they were taking so long was because they were determined to get it right. Now they have come up with interim frameworks; it’s like an admission that they don’t think they have got it right but have to get something through.”

‘Giant leap’ in expectations

There is also concern that the expected standards are much higher than anticipated by schools.

“The expected level for writing [at Year 6] was about starting to use paragraphs and varying sentence structure,” Mr Tidd said. “Now pupils must know a list of words that typical adults get wrong, use semi-colons and colons, and have legible, fluent handwriting. This is not a bit of a step up, it’s a giant leap.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT teaching union, said: “The DfE is gaining a reputation for producing policies that are late, insensitive to issues of workload and educationally damaging.

“Policy that is both interim and statutory is bound to increase workload. Teachers will have to learn one approach this year and then unlearn it the next.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, said: “The constant change in assessment and accountability is incredibly frustrating for headteachers. But I think a rushed solution would have caused more problems. I would rather work towards something based on evidence and proper consultation than have something imposed upon us.

“What we now need is clarity on what ‘interim’ means and what steps they will take. If we are to suffer interim frameworks, it has to be to create the space in which to do something proper.”

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