Primary school testing in England - life after levels


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Brief 5 minute summary of different views about this tricky topic.

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Primary school testing in England - life after levels

  1. 1. Tracking progress at Key Stages 1 & 2: introducing baseline assessment & removing levels 30th Jan 2014 Westminster Education Forum: Primary testing, assessment and accountability - baseline assessment, removing levels, and progression to secondary education Louis Coiffait @LouisMMCoiffait
  2. 2. Introductions I’m wearing a number of hats today...  As a school governor  Chair of Governors, Springfield Primary, Hackney  Governor, Primary Advantage federation, Hackney  Secretary, Hackney Association of School Governors (HASGA)  As an education policy researcher  Head of Research  The Pearson Think Tank (  Office of the Chief Education Advisor, Sir Michael Barber  Editor  
  3. 3. 6 exam questions I know you’ll give me a fair assessment… 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Will introducing a baseline test in early primary school achieve Govt. aims of tracking pupil progress across KS1-2, and highlighting areas of concern at an earlier stage? How well does the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) bring children to a level where a meaningful baseline measure can be established? How often should schools assess pupils between reception and Key Stage 2 to track performance and progress during Key Stages, and what form should such assessments take? How will the removal of the national system of levels and level descriptors from 2016 affect the ongoing assessment and reporting of pupils’ attainment? As schools gain the freedom to develop their own approaches to assessing and reporting pupils’ progress, what are the challenges around providing meaningful and clear information to parents, secondary schools, Ofsted, and other stakeholders? What support is needed to help schools develop these systems; what steps can be taken to minimise variation in teacher-led assessment? What oversight should exist for schools’ ongoing assessment of pupils? But I may still need to phone a friend… or two
  4. 4. Different viewpoints on the issues… The views of government Three principle reasons given for the changes;  Removing the previous ‘overly prescriptive’ approach  Gives schools autonomy to personalise their assessment approach  An opportunity for the profession to seize ownership of (some formative) assessment
  5. 5. Different viewpoints on the issues… The views of school leaders  It wasn’t broken so why ‘fix’ it?  Schools (and all other stakeholders) have spent years embedding and refining the current system.  Pupils use levels and assessments to set their own targets.  Further ongoing development would have been more helpful, instead of wiping everything, offering no alternative, and leaving schools empty handed.  Nearly 17,000 primaries have to ‘invent’ different systems; may be better, similar or worse… and consistency is important  6 questions all very real concerns, little clarity or support from Govt.
  6. 6. Different viewpoints on the issues… The views of colleagues at Pearson The experts in curriculum, resources and assessment. Three key responses to the recent consultation on these issues: 1) Set the baseline at entry to primary school  Fully recognise implementation challenges, but can be overcome.  Tests must be appropriate, good examples exist, to improve further.  Tests from different providers should be comparable and rigorous.  Being summer-born needs to be controlled for.  Would identify attainment gaps early, encouraging intervention.
  7. 7. Different viewpoints on the issues… The views of colleagues at Pearson  Provide useful formative assessment, to help teachers understand in detail where children are ‘starting from’.  Helps show the value added by the school during KS1.  But important to avoid ‘labelling’ inappropriate to share individual results to parents or even teachers.  Tension between individual progress and overall school accountability. children e.g. may be
  8. 8. Different viewpoints on the issues… The views of colleagues at Pearson 2) Progress as the key measure, backed by a threshold measure  Current proposals are for schools to first be judged on a threshold measure (85% of pupils meet secondary-ready standard) and only if they fail to meet that target (e.g. due to a challenging intake) will a progress measure then be taken into account in order to determine if the school meets the floor standard.  This is problematic.  A focus on threshold measures alone encourages ‘teaching to the test’, a focus on ‘borderline’ pupils, and disenfranchisement/ de-motivation of the many learners who will struggle to even get near such a high bar
  9. 9. Different viewpoints on the issues… The views of colleagues at Pearson  The desired results can be achieved, and risks diminished, by a ‘dual floor target mechanism’, retaining threshold attainment measure alongside progress-based measure, with latter taking precedence.  The key measure of school performance should be equally adept at exposing ‘coasting’ schools with high ability intakes as at recognising high performing schools with challenging intakes. Only looking at progress in schools that don’t meet threshold targets risks insufficient focus on the value added by all schools.  Progress should not be viewed as a safety-net or an ‘excuse’ for schools with difficult intakes, but as the basic marker of how well all schools are doing their job.
  10. 10. Different viewpoints on the issues… The views of colleagues at Pearson 3) Develop a broader measure of ‘secondary readiness’  Strong English and maths key to success at secondary and beyond.  But it would be valuable to find a way of reflecting the broader primary curriculum, as well as the attitudinal skills research has found to be vital to making progress. Any measure of secondary readiness should reflect this rounded view.  Current work on ‘Pearson ladders of progress’ in English, maths and science to offer schools an alternative framework to levels.  Planning further work with CentreForum to develop other solutions.
  11. 11. Different viewpoints on the issues… The views of colleagues at Pearson Recent Pearson research with teachers: Most important to assess skills 48% behaviour 46% knowledge 13% Most valued behaviours manage own behaviour follow instructions respecting others 82% 61% 61% Most valued skills organisation independent learning communication skills listening Most valued knowledge good Level 4 in English breadth of knowledge good Level 4 in maths 84% 81% 79% 53% 48% 48% 47%
  12. 12. Different viewpoints on the issues… My own view (wearing policy researcher hat)  Yet another big sweeping change, creates further burdens on schools, important that sufficient time, guidance and support is provided  There is still a pernicious lack of trust in continuous teacher-based judgements – yet it produces more data and if done right, with appropriate sampling, could actually be more statistically reliable.  New approach could make national standard setting more difficult…
  13. 13. Different viewpoints on the issues… My own view (wearing school governor hat)  Importance of in-year, almost real-time, progress data, rather than retrospective data, or occasional Ofsted judgements.  GBs need the skills and confidence to interrogate that data, without needing to rely on the SMT.  No small ask, a steep learning curve, requires strong data literacy, to ask the right questions, to make appropriate use of it.  Agree with current focus on professionalising Governors, but with two important caveats:  don’t lose sight of why people volunteer, it’s about local community involvement  and again we need proper support to improve and adapt to these changes – and that takes time and money.
  14. 14. Thank you. @LouisMMCoiffait