Other Government

Primary Assessment, 11th Report of session 2016-2017, house of commons Education committee, 1st May

The House of Commons education committee has published a report on primary assessment setting out a range of warnings over the government's reforms. The five key warnings include:

  1. The emphasis on the technical aspects of writing in primary school assessments is not supported by evidence
  2. Aspects of the writing assessments are unsuitable for children with special educational needs and disability (SEND)
  3. The government needs to be "cautious" in introducing a baseline measure 
  4. New primary tests have left schools feeling "confused and under pressure"
  5. Schools' individual assessment systems have been "low quality"

The report states:

‘The stakes should be lowered at primary school in order to combat some of these negative impacts. Performance tables should include a rolling three-year average of Key Stage 2 attainment and progress data to reduce the focus on an individual year’s results. Ofsted must also ensure that it inspects the whole curriculum, not just English and maths, and does not focus too heavily on Key Stage 2 data. We support the introduction of an improved progress measure, but the Government must be cautious if a baseline measurement is introduced. It should be designed as a diagnostic tool to help teachers identify pupils’ needs and must avoid shifting negative consequences of high stakes accountability to early years’.

See also the TES Primary Assessment: Five warnings issued by MPs today, 1st May 2017 New primary tests have left schools 'confused and under pressure', a report published today by the House of Commons education committee warns.

And  Sats Week: 'My teacher seems to believe that learning the difference between a subordinating conjunction and a preposition is vital to my future success', S. Collingwood, 3rd May 2017: TES (One headteacher imagines what a child's story of their experiences of Sats might look like: "I am going to start secondary school with the label 'not good enough'")

First joint report of the Education and Health Committees of session 2016-2017. Children and Young People’s Mental Health: The role of education, 2nd May

The report recommends a whole school approach to children and young people’s mental health; where PHSE is a compulsory part of the curriculum. There is also a long section on social media and how it can have a negative impact CYPs well- being- both in sites used and time spent on it, including late at night. The report highlights the need for relevant teacher CPD to better support pupils in schools and the importance of joined up services in this.

See also: Schools cutting mental health services to plug funding gaps, warn MPs, A. Ross, 2nd May: The Guardian


Des Clayes, Z. with Full Fact (2017). Teacher Retention: Are England’s Teachers Leaving? (Election Factsheet). Slough: NFER

This is the first factsheet published just prior to the 2017 United Kingdom General Election assessing teacher retention in England.

While many new teachers enter the profession each year, the number of teachers that are leaving is growing slowly, especially in particular regions. But the numbers aren’t as high as recent surveys of teacher intentions would suggest. Teachers may well be considering leaving in the coming years, but that doesn’t appear to be affecting teacher numbers—and so the availability of teachers— as much as the surveys suggest.


NFER comments on Education Committee’s Primary Assessment Report, 3rd May

NFER is pleased to see the Committee’s support for a focus on progress in school performance measures and for the Government’s commitment to introducing an improved baseline measure. We will be making a submission to the Department for Education’s consultation on Primary Assessment in England1 in which we will be considering the operational aspects of a baseline measure.

NFER agrees with the Committee’s observations about instilling greater confidence among teachers and the public about statutory assessments and the assessment and accountability system as a whole. In particular, we agree that there should be longer lead times when introducing new assessment initiatives to allow for relevant training in schools and to ensure teachers have the required information and knowledge.

NFER welcomes the recommendation that professional development training and support should be provided for schools to enable them to critically evaluate their formative and summative practice and the assessment tools that they use.

We also agree there is merit in exploring the proposal for a rolling three-year average of KS2 results for the purpose of school accountability, whilst retaining yearly data for individual school use. This suggestion was raised by Catherine Kirkup, Head of the NFER Centre for Assessment, who told the Committee when giving oral evidence: “I would retain the national testing but I think, as others have suggested, there is too much focus on one year’s results and I would move to rolling averages and trends so you can look at how a school is performing over time but still look at the overall attainment of all schools.”

The NFER written response submission to the Education Select Committee Primary Assessment Inquiry can be found here.

NAHT Annual Conference: Hobby urges members to ‘continue the fight’ as he steps down after seven years, 3rd May 2017: SecEd.

The out-going leader of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) urged members to continue the fight for state education.

Russell Hobby, the NAHT’s general secretary for the past seven years, said school leaders could be called upon to take industrial action over “massive cuts” which would harm standards of education. He told delegates on the final day of the union’s annual conference in Telford that it was not the proposed new National Funding Formula that was the problem, but the amount of money the government was making available for state schools.He mocked the Department for Education’s advice to schools to seek new deals on photocopiers to save money. “You can’t find £3 billion by renegotiating a few photocopier contracts,” he said. “The bulk of education spending is on people. These cuts will mean cuts to staffing.

Teacher knows best? Not any longer as parents muscle in on the classroom, R. Ratcliffe, 30th April 2017: The Guardian

The article considers how some schools still find it difficult to manage parent engagement/involvement, with many teachers reporting abusive behaviour from parents.

National Citizen Service increases chances of pupils going to university, Ucas figures suggest, A.  Bloom, 1st May: TES

A recent report analyzing data from UCAS shows that pupils who take part in the National Citizen Service programme are significantly more likely than their peers to be accepted on to a university course. Teenagers who had participated in the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme, which is open to pupils between the ages of 15 and 17, were on average 12 per cent more likely to go on to university than their peers. This was particularly effective in more disadvantaged areas.

The colour of numbers: visions of our mathematical universe, A. Bellos and E. Harriss, 1st May 2017: The Guardian

Visions of Numberland is a colouring book for all, not just those who like colouring. The aim of the book is to present a gallery of beautiful images that would introduce readers to deep mathematical ideas.

The concepts that have inspired the images come from number theory, topology, projective geometry, four-dimensional geometry, statistical physics, combinatorics, fractals, computer science, calculus, group theory, modular forms, complex arithmetic, Lie groups, tessellations, dynamical systems and many more mathematical fields.

The authors believe that, for each image, it is possible to engage with the concepts behind it. (there are accompanying text that explains the image in layman’s terms). The book is for anyone who is intrigued by maths.

Students enjoy science at school, but most still don’t see it as a career option, P.A. Banerjee, 22nd March 2017: The Conversation

The author considers, supported by research evidence, how the current STEM sessions do not help to improve attainment levels of GCSE science or maths, and that they haven’t helped to increase or widen STEM participation post-16, and how a new approach is needed to identify what works.

She highlights the importance of this for the UK - so that it doesn’t become constrained in productivity due to a limited supply of skilled individuals. And to achieve this, she believes that a way must be found to increase attainment and participation in STEM subjects at all levels of compulsory and post-compulsory education.