The DfE has indicated that the report contains much which is valuable and interesting. This commentary by a partner in the More Than a Score campaign will examine how far the report deserves such commendation and will also identify any recommendations which fall short of the pressing need for the reform of national assessment.
It is to be regretted that the group included relatively few early childhood specialists. This detracts from the authority of the report particularly in regard to the discussion of baseline assessment.
Principles and Recommendations
The following principles and recommendations taken from the review are commended as very broadly in line with the MTAS campaign. However it should be noted that deeply concerned teachers and parents do not accept that a minimising of the number of statutory assessments is, in itself, a sufficient reform. Those closest to the children should be trusted to assess progress.
The separation of assessment for children and assessment for accountability.
The need for reform of statutory testing .
The need for a relaxation of the time specified for statutory tests.
Opposition to the use of test scores to indicate the success or failure of schools. .
Progress should be valued over attainment in statutory assessment.
The number of statutory assessments in the primary phase should be minimised.
Statutory testing must not be used to influence teaching, learning and pedagogy.
KS2 writing should continue to be assessed by teachers and should be focused on overall quality.
Introduce national sampling as a measure of the performance of the primary phase as a whole.
In the longer term national sampling would replace statutory testing.
Remove end of Key Stage One statutory assessments.
Reporting a child’s scaled score should replace current reporting requirements.
Baseline assessment — opposition to children taking formal tests at such a young age..
Comment and Reservations
The report recommends statutory testing at two points, Reception and Year 6. The members of the Review Group which was dominated by heads and former heads of primary schools are seeking tests which can facilitate the identification of pupil progress over the years of primary education. The single baseline measure is the weakest element of what is otherwise an enlightened report and reflects the absence of expert advice available to the group. The confidence placed in the assessment of young children very early in their school life is sadly misplaced. The assessment of four and five year old children is valuable to teachers and parents but useless as a baseline from which progress can be identified some six years later. The MTAS campaign remains committed to the maintenance of the EYFS profile and accepts the need for a review of the profile.
The advocacy of statutory assessment at the end of year six will also be contentious for many members of the MTAS campaign. This is offered, doubtless pragmatically, as a medium term measure with abolition indicated for the longer term. However such is the strength of feeling among parents and teachers that nothing else but the total abolition of SATs in the immediate future is likely to be acceptable to the fast growing campaign. As the initials imply — our children are more than a score and the profile of their development which they take with them to secondary school must give a picture of the whole child. Teachers and parents should be trusted to work together to make the profile complete.
National Association for Primary Education