April 15, 2016
This briefing provides an update for teachers in primary schools on developments relating to statutory
assessment at the end of Key Stages 1 and 2 and sets out the Union’s advice and guidance on this issue.
Issues of concern
NASUWT members have raised a number of important concerns about arrangements for statutory
assessment this year. These are summarised below.
n The new system has required teachers to become familiar with a new way of assessing pupils’ work
that is quite different from the one in place previously. The NASUWT has warned repeatedly that if the
Department for Education (DfE) is intent on introducing a new system of statutory assessment,
teachers must be given the time and space to familiarise themselves with the features of this new
system. However, interim performance descriptors were only issued towards the end of last year,
much later than originally intended.
n Teachers’ experience of statutory assessment is that the publication of exemplification materials is
important in helping them to understand how assessment criteria should be applied. Exemplification
materials are particularly important when assessment systems are subject to significant change.
However, the current suite of exemplification materials did not become available until this February, less
than five months before the assessment period. This has limited the time available to teachers to make
use of the materials to assist in the assessment of pupils’ work.
n The Government was clear that it would ‘raise the bar’ in terms of the expected standard of performance
at the end of Key Stage 2. It stated that the expected standard would be broadly equivalent to Level
4b in future. However, the original exemplification materials appeared to suggest that the expected
standard would be much higher, closer to Level 5c under the old National Curriculum.
n The Government has not yet confirmed the levels of progress pupils will need to demonstrate in order
for schools to avoid falling below the floor standards. It has stated that it cannot provide confirmation
until it is able to review the outcomes of this year’s assessments. This lack of clarity about thresholds
of acceptable school performance has created significant anxiety across the education system.
n The exemplar materials produced by the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) have raised concerns
about the way in which certain areas of knowledge and understanding should be assessed. For
example, significant confusion has arisen about the appropriate use of exclamation marks.
n The exemplification materials included a tick list of assessment criteria that teachers could use to
assess pupils’ work. However, in some schools, this was at risk of being interpreted in a way that
would have required teachers to record over 6,000 distinct assessments for a typical class of 30 pupils.
n When the Key Stage 2 writing test was replaced by statutory teacher assessment in 2012, the
NASUWT pressed for the inclusion in statutory guidance of a clear requirement that teachers must not
produce additional annotations or written records to justify their assessments. The guidance confirmed
that the only evidence required would be the work that pupils had produced during their normal
activities in the classroom. This guidance also made clear that moderation should take place by means
of a professional dialogue between teacher and moderator and that schools should make time
available for this meeting to take place. This provision removed the risk of ‘moderation at a distance’
in which teachers could be placed under pressure to produce excessive additional written annotations
to justify their assessments. However, the STA initially removed these elements of the guidance for this
year, increasing the risk of some schools instructing teachers to produce extensive explanations of their
assessments that they previously would have been able to give verbally, based on their knowledge of
the standards reached by the pupils in their class.
Action taken by the NASUWT
In light of the concern that members have raised directly with the NASUWT about these issues, particularly
following the publication of the exemplification materials in February, the Union sought views and feedback
from members on the revised assessment arrangements. This information has ensured that the steps
taken by the NASUWT on this issue have been fully informed by the views of teachers and school leaders.
The Union also reaffirmed its commitment to protect members from any increases in their workload
resulting from the introduction of the revised assessment arrangements and its determination to make use
of its current action short of strike action instructions, which members should be following, to do so.
The NASUWT wrote to the Secretary of State for Education on 17 February to alert her to members’
concerns. The NASUWT pressed her to take two steps in particular to address this issue.
Firstly, in light of her commitment to reducing workload, the Union made clear that she should confirm the
actions that she would take to ensure that teachers are protected from any workload increases arising from
the revised system of statutory assessment.
Secondly, in light of the confusion her Department’s approach to curriculum and qualifications reform had
caused, the NASUWT maintained that she should confirm that the outcomes of statutory teacher
assessment should not be used in official evaluations of school performance, such as performance tables
or floor targets, for the year 2015/16.
In addition to this correspondence, the NASUWT has engaged with the STA to raise concerns about
arrangements for teacher assessment that fall within its remit.
Advice for members
The STA has issued a clarification document on the assessments and the Secretary of State has now
responded to the NASUWT’s letter. The STA document and the Secretary of State’s correspondence can
be viewed at www.nasuwt.org.uk/assessment.
These documents make clear that teachers should not be expected to complete pre-moderation
checklists and that their own existing internal assessment arrangements are sufficient for this purpose. It
has also been confirmed that moderation should be conducted between class teachers and moderators
through professional dialogue and the deadline for submission of teacher assessments has been moved
back to 30 June 2016.
In respect of accountability, Ofsted has confirmed that ‘inspectors should take into account that, during
this first year, pupils and teachers will still be adapting their approach, in particular to the unfamiliar teacher
assessment frameworks and the higher standards.’1 The Government has also stated that ‘all
organisations holding schools to account should be aware of the changes being introduced in 2016 and
will consider the impact of this in making any decisions about performance or intervention on the basis
of 2016 data alone.
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