Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Teacher Anger on Another Level over Testing Reforms

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Teacher Anger on Another Level over Testing Reforms

Article excerpt

Everything you need to know about the upcoming changes to primary assessment

teachers are furious about writing assessments, unions are being accused of scaremongering over tick-boxes and ministers have had to write in the TES to defend their reformed tests. Primary assessment has suddenly become contentious. Here's why, and what might happen next.

Why is primary assessment news?

Multiple simultaneous changes have been made to how primary children are assessed and many teachers are deeply unhappy.

What are the changes?

In the summer, Year 6 children will take reformed, tougher Sats tests for the first time and a new grammar, spelling and punctuation test has been introduced in Year 2. As levels are no longer used in schools, teachers have been given new criteria to use when carrying out the statutory teacher assessments in reading, writing, maths and science at the end of Year 2 and in writing at the end of Year 6.

Is that it?

No. An optional baseline assessment - which many early years experts say is potentially harmful to children - was introduced in September for children starting in reception. The government has also said it will introduce new tests for 7-year-olds, and multiplication tables tests for 11-year-olds in future years.

How much time have teachers had to prepare?

This year's changes were first confirmed by the coalition government in 2014 when it pledged to introduce baseline assessments and raise the standards expected of primary school children.

So why are teachers unhappy now?

Firstly, because of the sheer amount of change and uncertainty in such a short space of time. Secondly, because teachers had to wait so long to see what the changes to the tests and teacher assessments would be.

It was only when exemplification materials for writing assessments were published last month that teachers' apprehension finally turned into anger. "A bloody mess," is how Michael Tidd, the deputy headteacher of Edgewood Primary in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, described the situation.

Why do teachers think it's a mess?

They are angry about the increase in workload because the materials included tables of tickboxes of up to 198 for each child. Teachers also say that the standards have been set higher, equivalent to level 5c, rather than the level 4b they were expecting.

Are they right?

Nick Gibb, schools minister, has pointed out that the different exemplification materials are designed "to show the breadth of competence covered by 'meeting the expected standard'" and that level 4b would be "on the borderline" of that new standard (bit. …

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