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15 December 2020
By Adi Ahmet

Making Sense of Primary Assessments in 2021

After a significant delay, the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) have finally released the Assessment and Reporting Arrangements documents for EYFS, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 as well as the Teacher Assessment guidance for both Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.

On the same day, the DfE published a press release promising a ‘package of exceptional measures to improve fairness and prevent disruption’ with regards to public exams and assessments in 2021.

Here are the headlines from the changes for this year and what they mean in reality.

Key stage 1 tests in English reading and mathematics, and the English grammar, punctuation and spelling tests will be removed for one year.

After an initial buzz of excitement following the slightly misleading headline that ‘KS1 SATs are cancelled!’, the reality is that actually not much has changed. The requirement to submit a robust, evidence-based teacher assessment for reading, writing and maths is still in place. A thorough understanding of the requirements of the Teacher Assessment Framework are therefore still vital for year 2 teachers. The positive of course, is that schools do not have to administer statutory tests to 6 and 7 year olds, which hopefully will lead to less stress for teachers and pupils, and allow the time normally used for the tests to be used more productively. On the flip side, the removal of the tests means that teachers will not be able to use the information from these to help inform and bolster their teacher assessments. In fact I have already spoken to teachers who are planning to use previous year’s assessment papers towards the end of the year to back up their assessment judgements.

The English grammar, punctuation and spelling tests at key stage 2 will be removed for one year.

This one is quite self-explanatory really. Key Stage 2 will sit their end of year assessments with the exception of the GPS test. Ideally, this will mean that more time can be spent teaching the children the content they need to know, rather than spending time on test familiarity. Teaching children about grammar, punctuation and spelling in the context of high quality literature and their developing writing, instead of abstract concepts in a discrete test paper, will hopefully mean that learning can be embedded in a meaningful way.

Schools can take a flexible approach to the administration of the key stage 2 tests by extending the original timetable by a week, until 26 May.

It is important to realise that the normal scheduling of the assessment papers is still applicable this year. Schools must administer the English reading test on Monday 10 May and the mathematics tests on Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 12 May. The week extension of the timetable only applies should children not be in school to take the test on the specified day. To mitigate the possibility of more children than normal being absent on a test day due to Coronavirus disruption, schools can now apply for a timetable variation for pupils to sit the tests up to 10 school days after the scheduled date.

Schools can take a flexible approach to the administration of the phonics screening check, by extending the original timetable by a week, until 25 June.

Similar to the KS2 tests, the normal administration guidance still applies for the phonics screening check – schools are expected to administer the check during the week of 7 June 2021. In previous years, the following week has been available to administer the check to children absent during check week. This period has now been extended by a further week, for children that have had an extended absence. It should not be seen that there is now a three week window to administer the check – where possible, the check should be administered during the week beginning 7 June to all eligible pupils in year 1 and those re-taking in year 2.

Introduction of the statutory multiplication tables check (MTC) has been delayed until the 2021/22 academic year.

This was supposed to be the year that the multiplication tables check became statutory for all pupils in Year 4. This requirement has now been delayed a further year. Schools can still choose to administer the check for their own purposes, in which case this should be done between Monday 7 June and Friday 25 June.

In 2021, schools do not need to make or submit teacher assessment (TA) judgements for pupils in science at both KS1 and KS2.

There will be no requirement for teachers to assess children against the Teacher Assessment Framework for science at the end of this year. In practical terms this shouldn’t make too much of a difference as teachers will still be teaching the curriculum for science, and as good teaching dictates, assessing the children’s learning.

So there we have it. While many were campaigning for more extensive measures to be taken this year with regards to assessment arrangements, we have been given a somewhat tokenistic gesture by the DfE. It remains to be seen whether there will be any further announcements between now and the summer term, but as it stands, the areas outlined above are the current changes.

Whether there are further announcements or not, the education of our children still sits at the heart of what schools do. It continues to be vital that teachers remain vigilant and committed to quality first teaching in order to secure the best outcomes for their children, as they have done since the start of the pandemic. We can but wait and see what the future holds!

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