Following a submission on Primary Assessment I co- authored with Stephen Tierney (@LeadingLearning) and Sally Hamson (@SallyHamson), The Heads’ Roundtable were invited to give oral evidence to the Education Select Committee. We were welcomed by the chair, Neil Carmichael MP.
Alex Gingall, Juliet Nikalls and Michael Tidd were up first and gave superbly accurate assessment of Assessment by the assessors, as experienced hands on practitioners.
To their credit, the committee members didn’t even draw breath before Russell Hobby (NAHT) and National Association for Primary Education rep John Coe and I were cued. In this session, the focus was on the wider system but there were many common themes and highly consistent messages from both panel sessions.
Common Threads and Responses
Attainment measures and Accountability
Using attainment measures in floor targets is a rusty blunt instrument and HTRT wanted to hammer this home. It is hugely detrimental to schools in deprived areas and impacts on recruitment and retention. It is a measure of intake and not of effectiveness. The current system does not identify where there is some really excellent leadership and teaching practice, often in the most challenging areas.
Are tests fit for purpose at KS1 and KS2- are tests ok?
In essence areas of testing of KS2 are right but with flaws in structure and content. The reading test in particular for reasons well documented elsewhere. There was a strong message that KS1 tests should be removed. HTRT believe that infant schools should continue to use a well designed KS 1 tests as statutory assessments.
What was impact on SEN?
HTRT emphasised the very poor access for children being particularly notable for those with dyslexia. Too little consideration was given in the planning stages with a lack of overall attention to how children with SEN can show progress.
What role should Teacher Assessment have in statutory assessment?
There was an lack of understanding of the complexity of the multiple roles of assessment. We urged the Select Committee not to misunderstand the vital role day to day teacher assessment plays in successful teaching and learning; this however has a fundamentally different purpose to TA in statutory assessment. The role and purpose of statutory assessment must be made clear. TA must be removed from high stakes accountability. We urged MPs to use comparative judgments for areas not easily tested. They offered sampling as an idea with credibility.
Impact of tests on curriculum?
MPs got a cross panel view that the curriculum has been very adversely affected. There was a Twitter frenzy when I challenged MPs to hold government accountable for well-being of children and not adding more freight to our cargo ships. We are already carrying huge loads for social care and health. We acknowledged we do all we can but assessments drive curriculum. We should be trying to find ways to capture what we value not just test what is easy to measure.
What is the role of parents in assessment?
MPs came back to the parent aspect on several occasions. Again the message from HTRT was that the huge changes in assessment and curriculum was still causing confusion with professionals; how could this possibly be helpful for families? Again, leaders in schools with high deprivation where education is not always seen as high value, swim against the tide as it was exceptionally hard to communicate what individual children had achieved. I reminded them that parental choice and the litigious society we inhabit has strengthened family rights but necessarily their responsibilities.
I left with a sense that HTRT had voiced and echoed the frustrations and fears of the profession, but that we had contributed constructively from a broad base of experience. We planted some seeds about the system working for children and not vice-versa. It was a privilege to have this platform and I was humbled by the Twitter response.
Binks Neate Evans (@BinksNeateEvans) is Headteacher, West Earlham Infant and Nursery School, Norwich and a member of the Headteachers’ Roundtable Core Group.
Tagged: Primary Assessment