A new report is recommending a radical change to how pupils are assessed in primary schools. What could that look like, and how can technology be a part of it?
There are currently statutory tests that children go through in five of their seven years in primary school, from the baseline assessment at the start of the reception, to the SATS tests at the end of year 6. The Independent Commission on Assessment in Primary Education (ICAPE) has now released a report that not only suggests it’s too much assessment but goes further by recommending that all statutory tests are scrapped in favor of producing a ‘profile of evidence’ to reflect a broader range of a child’s achievements in primary school.
ICAPE worked with academics, headteachers, teachers, and other stakeholders to understand the key issues with assessment in primary school, with the aim of producing a more rounded education and reducing stress among pupils as they navigate their way through the education system.
Specifically, the recommendations are that the Early Years Foundation Profile and Key Stage 1 SATS tests are made non-statutory, and while it is suggested that Key Stage 2 SATS continue, there is simply no need to publish the results in the form of a league table. The baseline assessment, phonics screening, and multiplication table checks should be scrapped altogether.
What’s the evidence to support the recommendations?
The COVID pandemic resulted in all statutory tests being suspended while learning was disrupted, which allowed a somewhat unique opportunity to review the effectiveness of assessments in primary education.
ICAPE’s survey, which had nearly 1700 responses, showed 93% of educators, and 82% of parents said they were either unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with the current system of assessment, with many citing the negative impact on a child’s mental health and wellbeing as a result of having to take an important pass or fail tests. Both educators and parents overwhelmingly chose reducing stress on children as a priority of any redesigned system.
Another aspect of concern of the current system is the government’s motivation for so much testing. SATs Tests and the baseline assessment in particular are employed as a yardstick to judge a school’s success, with league tables published every year based on the results. Parents in particular felt strongly about removing the league tables to ensure the tests become fewer high-stakes for everyone involved. Meanwhile, both parents and educators agreed that trusting teachers to use their judgment of a child’s attainment was an important step to take in a redesigned system.
What else was in the report?
The report outlined recommendations that Year 1 and Year 4 are established as times for ‘key summative assessments’, as opposed to Year 2 and Year 6, so that the results give time for teachers to react and be able to maximize a child’s learning while they remain in primary education.
SATs tests only assess a child’s learning of English and Maths, so the report also recommends that assessments should be able to take into account their achievements throughout the whole curriculum, including arts and humanities, which helps pupils explore how different environments and cultures operate.
What does a ‘profile of evidence’ look like?
The idea of building a portfolio of evidence is to give students a chance to put together a positive snapshot of their time in primary education, using a greater variety of forms including teacher observations and projects they have done. It’s about using their achievements throughout primary school as a reference point when they move on to secondary school, instead of the pressurized nature of tests.
But assessments are and will remain, an important way to determine development. How can teachers be supported in ensuring individual pupils aren’t being left behind?
E-spaces has built an app to help teachers with this exact problem. By giving them the ability to easily create fun ways of testing their students’ understanding of what they are learning in any given lesson, they are able to receive feedback in real-time and build up a data profile on how well each individual student is doing. It means pupils are able to receive extra support quicker if there is a subject they are struggling in.
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