December 2017

The know zone

  • Cold turkey
    Christmas comes but once a year... which is just as well for one head who dreads the forced jollity of scratchy sweaters, Secret Santa and elves dancing to Slade. More
  • Mind the gap!
    Despite all the talk about improving social mobility, Kevin Gilmartin says that the latest data on sixth form university admissions indicates that social mobility is actually getting worse. More
  • Measuring up
    Suzanne O'Farrell shares some tips on strengthening your assessment system to make it as robust and effective as possible. More
  • Primary assessment: the next instalment
    This term has seen the government respond to two major consultations affecting the primary sector: one on primary assessment, and one on the Rochford Review into assessing children working below the standard of the National Curriculum tests. Julie McCulloch picks out the headlines. More
  • Smooth transition
    How do you help pupils during the transition stage? Is your school or college doing something innovative to make the process run smoothly and to gently ease children and young people in? What approaches do you take? Here, ASCL members share their views... More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
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This term has seen the government respond to two major consultations affecting the primary sector: one on primary assessment, and one on the Rochford Review into assessing children working below the standard of the National Curriculum tests. Julie McCulloch picks out the headlines.

Primary assessment: the next instalment

Neither the primary assessment nor the Rochford Response held any great surprise for anyone who’d read the two consultation documents. The government is going ahead with pretty much everything it proposed in the assessment consultation, and taking on board almost all of the Rochford recommendations.

Primary assessment

The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile will remain largely unchanged, although the government will explore the feasibility of reducing the number of early learning goals that are assessed and reported on, and new guidance for early years practitioners and moderators will be produced with the aim of reducing the workload involved.

A new Reception baseline will be introduced in 2020. A single supplier will be appointed to develop and deliver the assessment, to avoid a repeat of the fiasco of the multi-supplier model attempted a couple of years ago. The new baseline will function as the input to the primary progress measure, which means that the Key Stage 1 SATs can be made non-statutory, but not until 2023.

A new multiplication check will be introduced in 2020, to take place at the end of Year 4 (not in Year 6 as originally proposed). It will be very light touch – brief and administered online, with the results only being reported at a national level.

With immediate effect, the teacher assessment of writing at both Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 will be a little more flexible. It’s not quite a move back to ‘best fit’, but it does leave a little more space for teachers’ professional judgement. New KS1 and KS2 teacher assessment frameworks reflect this change, and new exemplification materials will be published shortly.

From 2019, there will no longer be a statutory requirement to carry out teacher assessment in a set format in reading and maths at the end of KS2.

We’ve produced a more detailed summary of the government’s plans in this area here:

Rochford Review

The requirement to assess pupils engaged in subjectspecific learning using P scales will be removed from the 2018 to 2019 academic year onwards.

The interim pre-key stage standards will be made permanent and extended to cover all pupils engaged in subject-specific learning.

The government will pilot the review’s recommended approach to assessing pupils not engaged in subjectspecific learning (that is, that it should primarily focus on the areas of cognition and learning) in the 2017 to 2018 academic year, before taking any final decisions on whether to implement this approach on a statutory basis.

Further work will be done to consider the best way to support schools to assess pupils with English as an additional language who are working below the standard of National Curriculum tests.

ASCL’s view

We’re cautiously optimistic that these changes will, on the whole, bring some much-needed improvement to the way in which primary children are assessed, and primary schools are held to account. With the exception of the multiplication check, which we don’t think is necessary, they align closely with our responses to the two consultations (see

We know that the Reception baseline is controversial. However, we believe that progress measures are the fairest way to hold schools to account, and that it is right that progress should be measured from the start of a child’s time at primary school (rather than almost halfway through, as is currently the case). We consulted with a wide range of individuals and organisations with expertise in early years, assessment and accountability before supporting this proposal. The devil is very much in the detail, but we are confident that it is possible to produce an assessment that is robust, reliable, a strong indicator of success at Key Stage 2, and appropriate and proportionate to the age of the children involved.

However, no assessment is ever 100% reliable, and no single measure can tell you everything about a school’s performance. We will continue to advise and closely monitor the DfE as the new baseline assessment is developed and trialled, and to ensure it sticks to its promise that no decision about a school will be taken on the basis of the progress measure alone.

Your CPD

Julie is a keynote speaker at our exclusive summit for primary school leaders – Principles, Purpose and Impact: Leading in Challenging Times – on 15 January in London. Book your place at

Julie McCulloch
ASCL Interim Director of Policy