The Education Insider: Back to School

We’re pleased to be kicking off the new academic year with a new series of blog posts – over the coming year, education expert Jodie Lopez will be giving you a real, clear and honest opinion of primary assessment, cutting through a lot of the complicated terminology and giving you the essential information you need. In the first of her blog posts for us, she discusses the latest information released from the DfE over the summer.

As teachers pack their sun loungers back in the garage and dust off their laptops ready to start a new, fresh academic year, I would like to hope that assessment is not even passing through their minds yet. However, with the release of the SATs progress data due in early September 2016, it is likely that assessment is certainly at the forefront of SLT members’ minds across the land.

We know that 47% of Year 6 pupils failed to meet the expected grades in maths, reading and writing back in July, and for many schools, that means the progress measure will be vitally important – the difference between meeting floor standard or not, the difference between coasting or otherwise. What is not clear yet is whether or not schools will find out, along with their progress data, what is to be considered “good” or “good enough” progress for the cohort. Early indications hinted that anything positive would be considered good and potentially even a tiny negative, i.e. -0.2 or similar, would scrape over the line – but this is all hearsay at the moment. It may be that September does not hold the answers yet either, and we might have to await the December performance data.

So with a lack of news on that front, did the DfE take the opportunity to release any new information this summer? Well yes…kind of. There were two major assessment announcements (one before the holidays and one during) which both represent a lack of any changes – slightly out of character given the year we have just had!

The first piece of “news”, back in July, was the release of the Interim Teacher Assessment Framework documents for 2017. After a quick excited read through, it seems, however, that they are exactly the same as the standards for 2016. Word for word. The only change is in the guidance around requirements for children with SEND – a useful clarification excerpt. However, the descriptors and requirements themselves for meeting the standards, remain as per 2016…suggesting “Interim” might last for longer than we first thought. This means that Year 2 and Year 6 teachers can at least start this year with a good grasp of the outcomes required for 2017 – which will be a welcome relief, I am sure.

The second piece of news is slightly more surprising (although really I suppose we should have seen this one coming!) The DfE wrote to schools during the holidays to inform them that the Foundation Stage Profile, which we thought we had waved goodbye to in summer 2016, has been reinstated for 2017. The profile as an accountability measure was due to be replaced with the Reception Baseline tests but after they were scrapped earlier this year, following a review into the results, it seems the EYFSP has come back into the fold, all previous faults forgiven. This will be music to the ears of EYFS practitioners, I suspect, as most people I had spoken to were keen to keep using it for their own assessment purposes anyway at the end of Reception year.

Whilst there is still much unknown about how primary assessment will continue to change over the coming months and years, I think we at least start this year with a bit more certainty and knowledge than we had this time last year. We wish all schools every success when those long awaited progress results are announced!

Jodie is an award winning ex-primary teacher who now works as a Freelance Edtech Consultant. Her interest in using technology in education has led to her working with a number of educational technology businesses since leaving the classroom. Most recently she has been Head of Education for an assessment system provider and has specialised in helping schools to transition to the new curriculum and leaving levels behind. Follow her on Twitter here.

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