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New Commission on Primary Assessment

A new teacher-led commission is being set up to help primary schools in England find new ways of assessing their pupils progress.

The current system for level of assessment uses levels to group pupils into broad bands from 1 to 8. The level descriptors used for this assessment were only ever intended to be used to sum up a pupils attainment and progress at the end of 2 key stages (age 7 and 11 at primary school). However, some schools started to use them as a form of ongoing assessment.

School Reform Minister, Nick Gibb, explained the assessment was failing to ensure children acquired a good grasp of the basics and described it as misleading to parents. The Minister has set out plans for a commission to help improve primary school assessment and testing, he said:

Ensuring pupil assessment provides an accurate picture of a pupils attainment and progress without placing a bureaucratic burden on teachers is a key part of the governments plan for education.

Levels have been a distracting, over-generalised label, giving misleading signals about the genuine attainment of pupils.

Crucially, they failed to give parents clarity over how their children were performing and also resulted in a lack of trust between primary and secondary schools – clogging up the education system with undependable data on pupil attainment.

The commission announced today will help schools develop their own, more accurate assessment systems that truly show how a child is performing in the classroom.

In his speech, the minister also said the models for measuring progress led to a narrow focus on getting pupils over boundaries – at level 4, at age 11, and at grade C or above at GCSE.

The government wants to reduce central prescription and believes teachers should have the freedom to develop formative assessment systems that best fit the needs of their pupils. The Department for Education hope that this approach will bring England in line with the top-performing countries and regions in the world, including Singapore and Hong Kong.

The Department for Education is establishing a commission on assessment without levels to help schools as they undertake these important changes and develop their own assessment schemes.

The Commission on Assessment without Levels will be led by former head teacher of the London Oratory School John McIntosh, who was also a member of the government’s advisory committee on its review of the national curriculum.

The government announced the use of level descriptors would end in 2013. The new national curriculum was introduced in September 2014. National curriculum test sample materials for the tests of the new national curriculum will be made available to schools in June 2015.



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