Press release

Key stage 2 review of testing, assessment and accountability: government response

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Michael Gove accepts all the recommendations of Lord Bew’s independent review of testing, assessment and accountability at the end of primary school.

Michael Gove: Substantial reforms will mean a fairer and more effective system

Education Secretary Michael Gove today accepted all the recommendations of Lord Bew’s independent review of testing, assessment and accountability at the end of primary school.

Key changes to the Key Stage 2 system will make it fairer for all and more effective in raising standards.

Michael Gove said the substantial reforms would ensure that heads, teachers, pupils and parents would be able to have confidence in the new system.

Currently there is statutory teacher assessment in every core subject - maths, reading, writing, speaking and listening, and science. There are also external tests in maths, writing and reading, and a sample test in science.

The changes include:

  • Replacing the current writing test with teacher assessment of writing composition. This will ensure pupils can be more creative and will overcome the dangers of teaching to the test. This teacher assessment will make up the larger part of the overall writing judgement.
  • Working with the profession to develop a test of some of the essential skills needed to become fluent, confident writers - spelling, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary. We intend that it will be introduced from 2013 after trialling in 2012.
  • Publishing more data in the 2011 performance tables onwards, including new three-year rolling averages from 2012, to give a rounded picture of a school’s performance.
  • Placing a greater emphasis on progress made by pupils.
    • Progress will be one of the two main published measures, alongside attainment. From now on any overall judgement of a school by the Government, local authorities or Ofsted will give at least as much weight to progress as attainment.
    • There will be a strong focus on the progress of every pupil. New progress measures will be introduced in the 2011 performance tables to focus on the performance of low, middle and high attainers. This will help stop schools focusing on pupils on the Level 3/4 borderline.
    • We will introduce new progress and attainment measures from 2012 for pupils who have completed all of Years 5 and 6 in a school. This will recognise that schools should not be held wholly accountable for the performance of pupils who have just joined them.
  • Secondary schools will be given teacher assessment judgements before test results, from 2012. This will mean there is more weight attached to them and allow longer for them to inform Year 7 teaching and learning.
  • Primary schools will provide more information on pupils’ performance to secondary schools so Year 7 teachers know right from the outset children’s attainment and the areas where extra work is needed. This will start in summer 2013.
  • There will be a trial in 2012 of an extension to the testing period so that pupils who are ill on the day of a test have a week to sit it, rather than two days.

Maths and reading tests will continue to be externally tested but will be refined over time. Teacher assessment of science, with a sample test monitoring national standards, will continue. Speaking and listening will continue to be teacher assessed.

Education Secretary Michael Gove thanked the panel for their report. He said:

These changes represent an educationally sound approach and substantial reform. The system in future will be fairer for teachers and pupils. It will give parents the vital information they need and will hold schools accountable.

I have always been clear that external accountability is essential if we are to drive up standards, and Lord Bew’s report recognises this. Publishing a greater range of data will be fairer for schools - schools should not be judged on one measure alone.

There has been criticism that the current writing test encourages drilling. It is clear that elements of writing where there are right and wrong answers - spelling, punctuation and grammar - lend themselves to external testing. But writing composition is better suited to teacher assessment. We will trust teachers to judge their pupils’ abilities.

The changes will be introduced as quickly as possible, most from 2012. In 2012 interim arrangements for writing assessment will be required. Those arrangements should be in line with the principles in Lord Bew’s report and ensure that results are as reliable and robust as possible. We believe some external testing will be required alongside teacher assessment. We will discuss the detailed arrangements for 2012 with the profession and confirm them to schools at the start of the new school year.

This will allow for the new spelling, punctuation, grammar and vocabulary test to be designed and properly piloted, and ensure the moderation of teacher assessment is robust, ready for full implementation from 2013.

The review was chaired by the cross-bench peer Lord Bew and consisted of headteachers and education experts. Michael Gove set up the review last year. He said external accountability at Key Stage 2 was vital because it was shown to drive up standards but agreed the current system was flawed and could be improved.

Lord Bew said today:

I am pleased that all our recommendations have been accepted. This is a complex area and many conflicting views were presented to us. But this package will lead to a better system, one that will do the jobs everyone wants it to do and which will have the confidence of all parties involved.

Notes to editors

  1. You can download Lord Bew’s final report from the Bew Review website.

  2. Read the Government’s response to the review.

  3. The panel received nearly 4000 online responses and about 100 written submissions, and took evidence directly from around 50 stakeholders, during a 12-week call for evidence.

  4. Lord Bew is a cross-bench peer, Professor of Irish Politics at Queen’s University in Belfast, and a Member of Royal Irish Academy (MRIA). He was a historical adviser to the Saville Inquiry from 1998 to 2001.

  5. Membership of the panel in full is:

  • Lord Bew - chairman
  • Helen Clegg OBE - executive headteacher, Shiremoor Primary School, North Tyneside
  • Sally Coates - principal, Burlington Danes Academy, Hammersmith & Fulham
  • Kate Dethridge - headteacher, Churchend Primary School, Reading
  • Lubna Khan - headteacher, Berrymede Junior School in Ealing
  • Ruth Miskin - founder of Read-Write Inc. and former primary headteacher
  • Miriam Rosen - former executive director, Ofsted
  • Tim Sherriff - headteacher, Westfield Community School, Wigan
  • Greg Wallace - executive principal of Best Start Federation, Hackney
  • Representatives of Ofsted and Ofqual acted as observers

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