The New Primary NC - from atrocious to far worse.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Regular readers will be aware of my concerns regarding the new primary mathematics national curriculum which is currently being introduced.

Last week the DfE published the specification for the system for assessing the new national curriculum.

It is an extremely significant publication.

If we take, for example, the assessment of the new Mathematics Curriculum for Key Stage 1 which is here it becomes clear that all children in year 2 will be doing two paper based mathematics exams which test, in detail, all the inappropriate abstract maths which should not be on the curriculum for children under the age of 7 (and isn't on any other national curriculum) but bizarrely still is on ours despite all the evidence (see e.g. page 11).

Schools will then be held to account according to students' performance in these exams (page 5).

The idea that academies and free schools can teach better curricula goes out the window because it is made clear that children in all schools will be forced to sit this test and will be held accountable for students' performance in it. (page 6).

Have I missed something or is this as insane as it looks?


Has this important development received any press coverage?
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Neil Moffatt's picture
Mon, 14/04/2014 - 12:58

This is insane. At too young an age, not only are abstractions pointless but also damaging to basic skills and can make maths frightening. The politicians who make such decisions are of course entirely comfortable with such abstractions, but unable to abstract themselves from their position of age and experience to try to understand the child's view. They have been, are and always will be the wrong people to meddle with education, as became the consensus opinion in Finland.

Barry Wise's picture
Mon, 14/04/2014 - 14:29

Neil, I don't think it is politicians making these decisions. The new assessment system is the work of the Standards & Testing Agency, who are supposed to be experts in this field.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 14/04/2014 - 18:05

Barry I've been reading Liz Truss' speech of 10 April carefully.

She's well aware of the problems with the new curriculum.

Reading this speech I think perhaps she is unaware of this new framework for assessment - or perhaps if she is aware of it she hasn't understood it's implications.

Opinions anyone?

John Mountford's picture
Tue, 15/04/2014 - 16:50

First, gut, reaction, Rebecca. It sounds like everything will be absolutely fine as soon as we begin implementation of the new curriculum in September. It left me wondering why it's taken so long for ministers to come out with such confidence and set education on an ever upward trajectory.

Any school, teacher or child who fails in this new world will look very silly, won't they!! I was so glad to learn, also, that teachers will now be free to innovate and will have so much more time to reflect on their professional development, and all this because of our new breed of political leaders of excellence. Thank you ET -don't go home, we need you!!
(I think I need to take another look at that speech - back soon!)

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 15/04/2014 - 16:56


When ET came out I was at a sink school. That's a real 1980s sink school - where I learnt nothing, spent breaks hiding in a cubicle in the loo trying not to get beaten up or get high on the glue and aerosols and hoping my afternoon teacher would be one of the good ones who let you out early so that you didn't get beaten up on the way home.

I remember one of the kids had a bootleg copy of ET on video. As a huge treat we all got to watch it. It was so bad you couldn't see any of the pictures or make out any of the soundtrack. But the vast majority of the kids were perfectly behaved as they were 'watching ET and were therefore cool'. So they behaved well and the teachers were happy.

I've always hated that film.

Neil Moffatt's picture
Mon, 14/04/2014 - 15:33

Thanks Barry. But are they free from Political influence? And if not, what criteria do they base their ideas on?

Brian's picture
Mon, 14/04/2014 - 16:30

The Standards and Testing Agency is an executive agency of the Department for Education. Not independent, and I'm pretty sure not free from political directives.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 14/04/2014 - 16:36

Politically independent or not, it is important to know the nature of their model of how children learn. It is clearly not the same as mine or Rebecca's. Seriously, this does need to be declared alongside the proposals.

Brian's picture
Mon, 14/04/2014 - 16:42

Agreed Roger. At the risk of sounding flippant but if the model of learning is based on 'Mr. Gove reckons ...' then we'll not get much of a debate.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 15/04/2014 - 07:30

Thanks, Rebecca. I knew teacher assessments were used at the end of key stage 1 but didn't know they were going to be "informed by pupils’ scores in externally-set but internally-marked tests".

These tests will be tied to the national curriculum and are mandatory in all state-funded schools including academies and free schools. This makes nonsense of the much-hyped "freedom" for academies/free schools to opt out of the NC.

I think you're right that Truss seems unaware of the implications - in her speech she boasted about untying assessment from levels but the new framework links assessment to "attainment targets" as laid down in the national curriculum.

agov's picture
Tue, 15/04/2014 - 10:12

Is KS1

"teacher assessments ... informed by pupils’ scores in externally-set but internally-marked tests"

much different to, let's say, KS1 test scores of level 1 'informing' teacher assessments of 2c?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 15/04/2014 - 11:33

Yes that's what I thought agov.

Janet thanks for all your helpful remarks. It's good to talk.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 15/04/2014 - 15:32

agov - I confess I don't know much about KS1 teacher assessment except the phonics check. Do KS1 pupils already have some sort of uniform test in say, maths, which informs the teacher assessment? Or are the teacher assessments somehow matched to the current NC levels?

agov's picture
Wed, 16/04/2014 - 07:06

Changes are being made for 2014 but for 2013 -

"2013 W/c 4 February Schools receive their standard and modified tasks and tests."

You might find 4.1 and 4.2 particularly relevant.

4.1 includes -

"If teacher assessment and task and test results differ, the teacher assessment results should be reported, provided the judgement is based on an appropriate range of evidence from work completed in class."

Apparently 'appropriate' embraces having no evidence whatsoever in tracking or children's work of anything supporting teacher assessments that embellish test results.

Amusing little snippets include -

5.2 "Teachers must not use the tests and tasks contents to prepare children for the assessments."

6.1 "Schools can open the task and test packs when they arrive so that teachers can decide which tasks or tests to use with each eligible child. Teachers should familiarise themselves with the procedures and content of the tasks and tests. However, they should not use their knowledge of the content of the tasks and tests to prepare children for the assessments."

6.2 "ensure no additional support, information or help is given to children with the content of the tests"

7.1 includes -

"STA will expect all local authorities to ensure Key Stage 1 moderation is carefully targeted so that schools where attainment and progress at Key Stage 1 and 2 are inconsistent are prioritised and moderated more frequently."

- that's what it says.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 16/04/2014 - 11:51

agov and Janet - can you help me define the key differences?

Are they

that previously we were measuring progress against levels but now we're just measuring knowledge of the new curriculum?

that previously the test were optional and now they're compulsory?

I don't think the new tests are coming in this year are they?

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 16/04/2014 - 13:15

Rebecca - that's the problem. I'm baffled. I don't know much about primary assessment at the end of KS1 as it's practised today. Reading the stuff you found has left me even more confused about tomorrow. It appears pupils were/are assessed against levels but in 2016 it will be assessed against national curriculum targets. But I may have misinterpreted this.

Perhaps a primary teacher could help - if s/he's not completely in despair.

agov's picture
Thu, 17/04/2014 - 07:43

Glad it's not just me who's confused.

There are a number of links (and therefore a number of posts). (You may already have seen them.) They perhaps help show the confusion.

The 2013 document says

4.1 - "The statutory National Curriculum tasks and tests must be administered to all eligible children who are working at level 1 or above in reading, writing and mathematics."

Also see section 5 -

"Schools must use the 2007 and 2009 Key Stage 1 National Curriculum tests."

2014 arrangements -

It says

'Changes for the academic year 2013 to 2014'

"It is specified that teacher assessment at the end of key stage 1 must determine overall levels as well as levels against each attainment target in science and mathematics."

The 2014 version says

"The statutory national curriculum tasks and tests must be administered to all eligible children who are working at level 1 or above in reading, writing and mathematics to help inform the final teacher assessment judgement reported for each child at the end of key stage 1."

(I've ignored the stuff about phonics.)

agov's picture
Thu, 17/04/2014 - 07:44

This gives a summary of changes to KS1 & 2 for 2014 -

agov's picture
Thu, 17/04/2014 - 07:45

agov's picture
Thu, 17/04/2014 - 07:52

This has quite a few pages but not that many words. Perhaps gives a birds eye view of changes up to 2016 -

file:///C:/Users/user/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Low/Content.IE5/7XA06JDB/PolicyupdateforprimayschoolsSept13%5B1%5D.ppt#485,26,Slide 26

National Curriculum levels will be removed and not replaced. But schools may well continue to use them as they will still have to show Ofsted evidence of children's progress.

agov's picture
Sun, 20/04/2014 - 11:40

NAHT statement from February about assessment after levels (- seems to be keep them until schools nationally agree something else). -

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 20/04/2014 - 17:25

Thanks for that reference agov.

We're going through a revolution in what's possible in formative and summative assessment as we lean to harness the power of the web to provide detailed information about precisely which skills each student has and hasn't mastered.

There's a positive future coming. It makes sense to retain levels as we let it evolve to a point where what's becoming possible can be clearly articulated and set as a base standard for practice in assessment.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 15/04/2014 - 07:59

English pupils are already among the most examined in the developed world. This Government seems fixated on measurement even to the extent of introducing a "baseline" assessment when children enter school. But if schools are going to be judged on "progress" then there's a perverse incentive to depress these baseline scores.

Children in many countries, including Finland, don't start formal education until age 7. But here in England children are assessed at 7 and will take these statutory end of Key Stage 1 tests from 2016.

Truss compared England with Shanghai. I've been unable to find out whether pupils in Shanghai are given mandatory tests at age 7 but this 2007 article on assessment reform in China suggests not. It describes how exams have become less frequent: the earliest exam appears to be a primary "graduation" exam which is set by schools.

Interestingly, it also said exams would move towards checking understanding, analyzing and problem-solving. And results would no longer be used to rank schools.

I don't think Gove, Truss et al will applaud that policy change.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 15/04/2014 - 08:08

Rebecca - thanks for providing the link to Truss's speech. She again selectively used TIMSS data to criticise the lack of textbook use in England in her speech. But as I've pointed out before, the TIMSS data shows textbook use in England is more widespread than she claimed.

Barry Wise's picture
Tue, 15/04/2014 - 17:49

Rebecca, having finally got round to reading the actual document it seems to me at first sight NOT QUITE to be saying what you say it is saying.

In particular -

You say: "Schools will then be held to account according to students’ performance in these exams {KS1 tests}."

But the document says:

Key stage 1 assessments will remain statutory but will not be used for the progress floor standard of all-through primary schools.

i.e. schools will not be judged on the outcomes of these KS1 tests, but on a progress measure from a Reception baseline and attainment at KS2.

BUT...... then it goes on about an interim situation where the better of a Reception baseline - KS2 or a KS1-2 baseline can be used to measure progress........ ?????

*scratches head*

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 15/04/2014 - 17:58

And what if you're a first school or an infant school?

Barry Wise's picture
Tue, 15/04/2014 - 17:53

....... there we are ..... all made clear on p 11 when it says KS1 assessments are NOT included in the data published in Performance Tables, so not a schools accountability thing after all. Phew.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 15/04/2014 - 17:59

I think that's pretty irrelevant. It's what Ofsted put you into special measures for that matters and my reading of the report suggested to me that Ofsted would be looking at the KS1 data.... ?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 15/04/2014 - 18:05

The idea of league tables for the attainment of 6-year-olds really boggles my brain Barry. Can anyone else see the efforts some schools will go to avoid having summer born boys in their intake? I know a few schools which are pretty good labelling their summer born boys as being 'unteachable' and making theirs and their parents' lives hell until they remove them already, simply because they won't easily accept teaching targeted at autumn born girls....

But then it is essential more schools are punished isn't it? So this might be a good way of identifying some more potential victim schools.

Barry Wise's picture
Wed, 16/04/2014 - 05:40

Except that there is no attainment measure before KS2. Before that there is a progress measure only. Progress is always measured and always has been. Hardly anything new about that. It certainly does no harm to keep an eye on the progress of summer born boys.

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Sun, 20/04/2014 - 18:11

David Laws in March formally announced in Parliament recently that KS1 progress is to be part of performance assessment and will require a statutory assessment process in reception.....

Although the idea of formal testing in reception is odious ( after all every child has an APS score assessed at least once a term ..why can't they use these as a formal baseline?) it does make sense to formally assess ks1 progress . This is illustrated by the OFSTED dashboards methodology for deriving the list of similar schools that your school is compared against. Whilst OFSTED believes that grouping schools by the APS score allows for deprivation factors this is not the case.

Our school is over 55% FSM but our "similar schools" group includes many schools below 30% FSM, one is as low as 15% . Either our KS 1 provision is excellent or , more likely that their KS 1 provision is poor . Furthermore it currently pays off for schools to err on the side of caution for KS1 outcomes because it makes the statutory progress measure in KS2 look so much better.

With regard to league tables I find that it is the media that use this phrase the most and rank schools with no evidence of understanding of value added results

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 20/04/2014 - 18:35

Thanks for this Rosie. Have you got a link for David Laws' announcement?

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Sun, 20/04/2014 - 19:49

lots of coverage of statement online ( google David laws reception assessment) .

Rereading it suggests that it is proposed in order to measure overall progress from reception to year 6 and not a new additional measure of key stage 1 progress as I had thought . The problems with this "all-through primary " progress measure is that :

a) the points system for reception and keystage 1 is different from key stage 2 ( expected progress in ks1 is 5 points/annum compared to 3 points in Ks2) which complicates a single progress measure for the child.

b) The first progress data set for the measure won't be available until the first children starting reception in Sept 2014 have reached Year 6.

c) There is still no incentive for schools not to underestimate their ks1 results.

agov's picture
Mon, 21/04/2014 - 08:39

I'm sure you meant to say

'There is still no incentive for schools not to underestimate or overestimate their ks1 results depending upon whether they are primary or infants schools.'

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.