Cover story - September 18, 2017

All-through primaries can ditch Key Stage 1 SATs from 2023

Key Stage 1 SATs are to be scrapped, but not until 2023 – and only for all-through primary schools.

Education secretary Justine Greening announced the change in her response to the consultation on primary testing, saying the tests for Year 2 pupils would be non-statutory once a new reception baseline becomes established, expected to be in 2023.

The new baseline test for reception children, which will be ‘teacher mediated’, will be introduced in 2020. It is not clear what kind of assessment it will be; the Government has only said that it will be developed in conjunction with the teaching profession.

Two years ago baseline tests that had been developed by three different providers were scrapped after research revealed that the results they produced were not comparable with each other.

Greening also announced that schools will no longer have to submit teacher assessments of reading and mathematics at the end of Key Stage 2. A new times tables check, that was expected to be undertaken in Year 6, will now take place in Year 4.

Greening said the changes would ‘free up teachers to educate and inspire young children while holding schools to account in a proportionate and effective way’.

Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the Key Stage 1 tests should be scrapped sooner.

 ‘The Government envisages a future for primary education that continues to be dominated by high-stakes testing. The National Education Union believes that there are better ways of assessing children, and of ensuring school accountability. We will work alongside parents and education professionals to stop the introduction of the Reception Baseline Assessment and Multiplication Table Check, and to replace the present broken system with one which will support  schools,’ he said.


Cover story - September 11, 2017

Briefing: your digest of the summer's education news    

Welcome back to Greensheets and the first issue of the new academic year. We hope you’ve been enjoying the summer break – so keeping abreast of education news might not have been at the top of your ‘to do’ list. Not to worry – here’s a swift breakdown of what’s been happening in July and August.

The NAHT has advised its members not to prepare for further writing tests in Key Stages 1 and 2 under the current marking regime. The union says it expects that there will be an announcement early in the new school year of a change from the current ‘secure fit’ system to a ‘best fit’ system for writing assessment. This would place more weight on the judgement of teachers and would no longer require evidence that pupils meet every one of the assessment criteria in order to reach the expected standard.

Half of all pupils who are permanently excluded from school have been diagnosed with mental health problems, according to a new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). The report goes on to say that the figure is likely to be “closer to 100 per cent” as many go undiagnosed. Just one in 50 pupils in the wider population suffer from mental ill-health issues. In July, the DfE changed its guidance to schools on the exclusion process as the rate of permanent exclusions rose for the second year running.

The Department for Education (DfE) will change the methodology for its Progress 8 accountability measure for  secondary schools in 2018. The change, which is subject to consultation, comes in response to concerns about the negative impact a small number of pupils with “extremely negative progress scores” can have on a school’s Progress 8 score.

The proportion of private schools that are subject to inspection by Ofsted and rated ‘inadequate’ has reached a seven-year high. The inspectorate rated 13 per cent as ‘inadequate’ as of March 31 this year. This compares with four per cent in 2014 and just three per cent in 2011. In contrast, 3.3 per cent of state primary and secondary schools are rated inadequate. Ofsted inspects outcomes of just 983 private schools. The large majority are subject to inspection by other bodies.

The government is going ahead with proposals for an ‘apprenticeship’ scheme that would allow non-graduate teaching assistants and others to study to become qualified teachers. The new route will run alongside a separate postgraduate apprenticeship for prospective teachers, due to begin in 2018.

A study by Education Datalab found that, compared to the national average, attainment of pupils who were disadvantaged over a long period has not been improved by the pupil premium. The study found that attainment improved in inverse proportion to the amount of time pupils were eligible for free school meals. The improvement was greatest for those eligible for less than 60 per cent of the time; there was a small improvement for pupils eligible for between 60 and 90 per cent of the time. However, for pupils who were eligible for free school meals on almost every occasion that the school census was taken (90 per cent or more) attainment actually fell.

Almost a third of primary pupils left school this year unable to swim, new figures from Swim England show. One in 20 primary schools provide no swimming lessons at all although swimming is part of the national curriculum.

Government plans to offer free breakfasts to all primary school pupils have been scrapped.

Research by the DfE has found that school budget changes don’t appear to have made much difference to pupil attainment. The study looked at the funding and attainment of all schools from 2010 to 2015. At both primary level and secondary level the research found only a small positive correlation between funding and attainment.

Headteachers are missing out on training opportunities because of funding shortages and heavy workloads, according to research commissioned by the DfE. The study found that very few leadership development courses are targeted at headteachers and that “budgetary constraints, workload at full capacity and staffing shortages” create barriers that prevent them from accessing training.

Nearly half of pupils made no progress or dipped in attainment in English in their first year at secondary school, according to new research. Forty-two per cent of Year 7 pupils either stood still or “regressed” in English, and 37 per cent of pupils in maths did the same, according to research by No More Marking, a company specialising in assessment software.

The exams regulator Ofqual will review the rules that govern how teachers are involved in writing and reviewing exam papers, in the wake of a cheating scandal that has led to pupils having their results annulled. Ofqual will look at the safeguards that are put in place to “prevent disclosure of confidential information” by teachers who set exams. A deputy head at Eton College resigned following allegations that questions from a forthcoming economics exam were passed to colleagues and, soon afterwards, Winchester College suspended a subject head.

Headteachers do not believe their reception pupils are “school-ready”, according to a survey by the National Association of Head Teachers. Of the 83 per cent of heads who said there was a problem, almost all said it lay with pupils who arrived with speech and language skills that are too poor to participate properly in the classroom, and 86 per cent said the problem had become worse in the past five years.

Researchers who wanted to compare the test results of secondary school pupils taught in mixed ability classes with those taught in ability sets were unable to complete the study because they couldn’t find enough mixed ability groups to use in their study. The lack of mixed ability groups worried Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, the organisation created by the government to promote evidence-based teaching, who said that, while setting pupils by attainment could “produce some benefits for higher attaining pupils”, it can “hold back low-attaining learners by damaging their confidence and engagement with lessons”. His foundation describes the practice of “setting or streaming” pupils as likely to have, on balance, a negative impact.