First responses to the DfE consultation document, Primary Assessment in England

Members of More than a Score give their reaction to the government’s proposals

Madeleine Holt, Rescue our Schools.

“Rescue Our Schools thinks Justine Greening needs to keep on listening.  If, as she claims, she wants a primary assessment system which parents and teachers can trust, then her priority must be to take their concerns seriously and act on them.

That means changing the whole framework of assessment, so tests genuinely help children’s learning. At the moment they are  too often age-inappropriate and they stress teachers and children in equal measure. They are leading to schools teaching to the test to the detriment of education.

Nothing will change unless the government breaks the link between scores and accountability. As for baseline, it is utterly inappropriate developmentally to ‘test’ four and five year olds. It will be nothing more than a divisive judgement on parenting which will make some children feel like failures from the moment they start school.”

Wendy Ellyatt, Chief Executive, Save Childhood Movement

“The Save Childhood Movement (SCM) is committed to ensuring that the best interests of the child lie at the heart of educational policymaking. Although we welcome genuine and open consultation in this very important area, we will continue to contest any system that 1) ignores the vastly different backgrounds that young children start from 2) imposes statistically invalid forms of assessment 3) labels and limits children in ways that compromise their natural learning motivations 4) prioritises literacy and numeracy over the importance of social and emotional development and 5) negatively impacts on young children’s dispositions and capacities as joyful lifelong learners.

The most successful countries balance the importance of academic achievement with that of social and emotional intelligence, in recognition of the fact that it is the development of the whole child that is crucial if students are to prosper in a 21st century world. We very much hope that the consultation will herald in a new era where this is fully acknowledged and acted upon.”

Alison Roy, Association of Child Psychotherapists

“We welcome the consultation and ending Key Stage 1 Sats, although 2020 seems too far away if the formal tests are proving to be emotionally damaging for children. There also needs to be more thinking about how to assess children’s development and learning needs, in a way which facilitates a greater understanding of how to improve their learning environments and their overall experience of primary education, not in order to create labels of pass or fail for them or their schools, further down the line.

We would not support any kind of intense scrutiny of academic potential and falsely generated expected targets/grades for young children – be it through tests or teaching assessment, as developmentally it would not be possible to know what they are capable of achieving and that level of scrutiny as opposed to thoughtful understanding could well be restrictive and emotionally harmful to them. What we do know is that children are better able to think and therefore more likely to thrive when they feel secure and supported to explore and make their own discoveries.”

Robin Duckett, Sightlines Initiative

“Changes that reduce the testing at one stage would place greater pressure on others, particularly early years children and their teachers, and the options on the testing of times tables is simply what year the tests should be administered, not whether they’re a waste of time and money.

We seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. The greater question of whether a regime of testing of this magnitude is ethically legitimate, given its impact on children, is given scant consideration.

We seem to be faced with the introduction of a new baseline regime or more detailed and specific criteria in reading, writing and maths at the end of Reception ( the very idea fills me with horror), no relief from the phonics check, mad as it is. There will possibly be some downscaling at the end of KS1 but at the expense of the younger children. Even then, schools would still be given the KS1 SATs as optional – and so many do other optional standardised commercial tests they’d probably use them anyway.

Reduction of teacher workload would occur through opting not to have teacher assessments rather than disposing of the standardised tests at 11.

This isn’t a consultation that gives us an option of addressing why school accountability is so massively predicated on an obsession with national testing and whether we need real and meaningful change in approach rather than more tinkering with an obsolete and failing system.”

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