2022 will be a year to look forward to for junior schools. By this date, we will finally have a baseline measure for pupils from the point they join school in reception feeding through to us in year 6. This promises to level the playing field between primary schools and the infant-junior system!
Further to last week’s blog, like many school leaders I am feeling frustrated by the lack of clarity around the new assessment system that has been introduced. Back in the day, when there were armies of local authority advisers, a huge undertaking such as changing the national assessment system would have involved so much more information and guidance. And perhaps most importantly, this would have been BEFORE the changes were implemented. On Friday I was advised by a national educational organisation to make it someone’s job to monitor DfE press releases and documentation so that I could find out if anything changes. Changes are being made to key documentation without properly informing schools or even recording ‘version numbers’ – therefore the advice we have is liable to change. We are also implementing something that has not been finalised, which is obviously problematic. For example, nobody knows, or will know what the pass grade will be, or what will be judged as exceeding the grade (the ridiculous and contentious term ‘mastery’) or what or how we will measure and track the attainment of those pupils with special educational needs.
And what does this mean for the children? Well at the end of year 6, pupils and parents will be given different information to before. Rather than a level, they will now get something called a ‘scaled score’ where 100 represents a national average. They will also get a raw score (i.e. mark from the test) and whether they met the age expected grade for the core subjects. I am sadly not sure this will leave parents feeling much more informed!
And this system (that is at best transitional at the moment), will be used to categorically and objectively make judgements about schools. There will still be a league table and OFSTED will still use the data. I personally have no doubt that there will be some very difficult times ahead for many schools when the final expectations become clear.
So what exactly can we do about it? Well all I can say is thank goodness for the organisation “FFT”. I attended a very useful meeting in London on Friday where FFT explained their useful tools to set targets and track pupil attainment. It provides us with a tool that can be used to set meaningful targets this year and beyond and these will be linked to a national data set, so they will be robust. They also clearly answered my questions around progress, which is vital for us. Essentially we will no longer be looking at a ‘threshold measure’ of progress – i.e. the % of pupils who passed a level and therefore made x level’s progress. Rather a more subtle and complicated measure will be used called ‘Value Added’. This takes the prior attainment of a pupil and looks at what on average, across the country, a pupil with that grade gets at the end of year 6. All things being equal, statistically it would be fair to say that an average school would get the child to that level. Better schools would accelerate their progress – so they would achieve a better than expected score and vice versa. This can then be averaged for subjects, groups of pupils and also provide an overall grade, which will represent how well pupils progress at a school.
Anyway – we will be having a parents forum to discuss this further. Whilst being technical and obtuse, it is really important and will be the primary mechanism by which all schools in the future will succeed or fail.