Primary assessment and accountability update: Autumn 2020

There is so much going on right now regarding statutory assessment and accountability measures that I thought I’d have a go at summarising it all and provide the links to the relevant documents. So, no messing about, let’s get on with it.

The Engagement Model and P Scales

Along with the changes to Development Matters framework, which have implications for the way progress is ‘tracked’ in the Early Years (hint: please stop with the sub-month band/point scores/expected rate of progress nonsense), the removal of the remaining p scales feels like the final death of levels. This all started back in 2016 when, following the Rochford Review, ‘interim’ pre key stage (PKS)’ assessments were provided to fill the gap between national curriculum assessments and p scales (i.e. below WTS and above P8): there was one interim PKS band for KS1 and three for KS2. Who can forget the catchy and unambiguous categories of ‘foundations for the expected standard, early development of the expected standard, and growing development of the expected standard? These were almost joined by ‘entry to the expected standard’ and ’emerging to the expected standard’ but thankfully we dodged that bullet. Imagine those all lined up beneath the main three writing assessments at KS2. Imagine explaining them to parents!

In 2019, the new pre-key stage standards replaced the interim bands and the top half of the p scales (P5-8). There were four new PKS standards for KS1 (PK1-4, which indicate that the pupil was working below the standards of KS1) and an additional two for KS2 (PK5-6, which indicate that the pupil was working below the standards of KS2). P scales 1-4 remained in place for pupils not engaged in subject specific study (which is a little disingenuous because P4 could be used for subject specific study but we’ll ignore that). You may have noted, by the way, that we currently have P1-4 sitting below PK1-4, which can’t possibly cause any confusion *rolls eyes*.

The remaining p scales were due to be ditched this year but for obvious reasons this has been delayed. Instead we have a transition year meaning schools can either assess using the Engagement Model or carrying on with p scales. Most will probably do the latter but some special schools have already made the transition. Outlined in the Rochford Review, the reasons for the removal of p scales were near identical to the reasons given for the removal of levels: they labelled children, did not necessarily provide useful information, and implied linear progression. Indeed, in many schools, p scales were used to track progress and were even divided up into sub-P scales for measuring progress over shorter periods (general tip: inventing more bands does not prove that pupils have made more progress). This despite everyone knowing that pupils did not progress through p scales at a fixed rate, or even progress through them at all.

The Engagement Model is different. It is used to assess pupils’ relative engagement towards their individual, appropriate outcomes in five areas: exploration, realisation, anticipation, persistence, and initiation. The key word here is relative. There is no prescribed progression pathway, criteria, output or data format. Instead they relate to the pupil’s specific needs and targets. One has to wonder if this has wider application beyond just those working below the standards of the pre-key stage.

The Engagement Model becomes statutory in 2021/22 for primary schools with pupils working below the standards of the pre-key stage and not engaged in subject specific study (it is not statutory for schools with secondary age pupils working at this level). At key stages 1 and 2, schools must inform the DfE of any pupils that are assessed using the engagement model but there is no requirement to submit any data beyond that. This differs from the current situation where schools submit a BLW code and corresponding p scales.

Rochford Review Final Report

Pre-key stage standards (KS1)

Pre-key stage standards (KS2)

The Engagement Model

The Reception Baseline

Originally due to become statutory this year, the reception baseline (RBa) has – like everything else – been delayed and will not be rolled out en masse until next autumn. A table top, task-based, one-to-one assessment designed to provide a baseline score for progress measures at KS2, this assessment has had a chequered history. An initial attempt at a multi-provider approach failed after an SQA comparability report concluded that the data from the various providers was not – wait for it – comparable. Back to the drawing board and NFER was selected as the preferred provider (I suspect that if the majority of schools had chosen NFER back in 2015, then the programme wouldn’t have been scrapped).

The reception baseline in its current guise has had more trials than a bloke I met down the pub had for West Ham. 2018/19 was a pilot year, 2019/20 was a trial year, and now 2020/21 is an early adopter year (not to be confused with Early Years Foundation Stage Profile early adoption. That’s different). Next year will be the actual, proper, definite implementation of the RBa. Definitely. Data gathered from pilots/trials/early adoption will not be used for any accountability measures. Oh, and the DfE still plan to ‘black box’ the data until pupils reach the end of KS2. Don’t shout at me.

If the RBa gets off the ground, then it will be first used as the baseline for KS2 progress measures in 2028 (cue headteachers working out their retirement dates). Until that point, progress will continue to be measured from KS1 results. Note that the knock on impact of the delay to the roll out of RBa is that the planned scrapping of KS1 in 2023 has been pushed back to 2024. This is to ensure that no cohort is without a baseline (either KS1 or RBa) for KS2 progress measures. The last cohort to be assessed at KS1 should therefore be the 2022/23 Year 2 cohort. Watch this space.

Reception baseline assessment information page

Development Matters

This is not a statutory assessment and I’ve already written about it here so I won’t dwell on the subject again. Just to note that Development Matters has undergone quite a radical overhaul and is resulting in discussions about how progress will be tracked in Early Years in future. This could be EYFS’ assessment without levels moment! I hope it results in far less ticking off of statements for every early learning goal and a move away from weird sublevels that ignore that deliberate overlap of the deliberately broad month bands. Oh, and pupils do not make 6 points a year. They really don’t. Please don’t reinvent that. Perhaps just state whether pupils are on track or not; or working below, at or above expectations. That’s probably enough.

Development Matters 2020:

Early Years Foundation Stage Profile

Following the pilot of new Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP), administered by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) between June 2018 and October 2019, the DfE ran a consultation and reported its finding in January 2020. The new framework was published in July 2020 and is due to become statutory for the 2021/22 reception intake. Many schools have however chosen to be ‘early adopters’ this year. Those schools will submit EYFS assessments under the new framework; schools still using the old framework will continue to submit assessments in the same format as previous years.

The big change is the removal of the ‘exceeding’ band. Assessments made under the new framework will simply record whether a pupil is ’emerging’ or ‘expected’ in each of the seventeen early learning goals (ELGs). It is therefore similar to science at key stages 1 and 2 where a binary HNM/EXS assessment is made. The ELGs themselves have also changed but there are still seventeen and the good level of development (GLD) measure will still be based on twelve of them (i.e. those that make up the prime areas and the specific areas of literacy and maths). Here’s a comparison of the old and the new (GLD ELGs are highlighted):

EYFSP Early Adopter schools guidance:

Early Years Assessment and Reporting Arrangements 2021

EYFS reforms consultation response


No changes to this assessment but obviously the test didn’t happen last summer and, in contrast with every other statutory assessment in primary and secondary education, the phonics check WILL go ahead. This autumn, primary schools will administer the phonics check to the current year 2 children – i.e. those that missed it in year 1 – using a previous year’s version, and the results will be submitted to the LA/DfE by the end of term. Pupils that do not meet the expected standard (presumably 32 marks…again) will attempt it again next June alongside the year 1 pupils. The phonics check will be run in the week beginning the 7th June 2021 but the DfE have announced that the window for running the test can be extended by a week if required.

Oh, and any current year 3 pupils that didn’t meet the phonics standard in year 1 and missed out on a second attempt in year 2 last year, will not have to take it this autumn.

Administering phonics check to year 2 pupils autumn 2020

KS1 assessment and reporting arrangements

Key Stage 1

First thing to note is that pupils didn’t take KS1 tests in 2020 and no teacher assessments were submitted to the DfE, which means there will be no progress measures in 2024 (unless they bodge a baseline using phonics+EYFSP. Wouldn’t put it past them). The second thing to note, as mentioned above, is that the planned scrapping of KS1 assessment has been delayed by a year due to the delayed rollout of the reception baseline. The 2022/23 year 2 cohort will be the last to have formal KS1 assessments; the 2023/24 year 2 cohort will be the first to have a reception baseline.

Top fact: when the first cohort of reception baseliners reach the end of KS2 in 2028, the DfE intend to give up generating progress measures for junior and middle schools.

And what about 2021? As announced yesterday, the DfE have decided not to run KS1 tests next year but will continue to collect the usual teacher assessments in reading, writing, and maths. No science assessments will be collected.

One assumes that KS1 assessment will return to normal in 2022 but one also has to ask if it’s worth returning to the use of KS1 tests for what will probably be just two years. We’ll see.

KS1 assessment and reporting arrangements

Multiplication Tables Check (MTC)

The MTC was supposed to be run for the first time in summer 2020 but inevitably that didn’t happen. The DfE have decided that it will be optional this year and will become statutory in 2022 when it will be carried out within a three week window starting 6th June.

Key test dates

Key Stage 2

Again, there were no KS2 tests or assessments made in 2020, which means there is no update to the performance tables (or ASP or IDSR or FFT). It also means that there is no baseline for the current year 7 cohort and therefore will be no progress 8 measure in 2025. For 2021, the DfE have announced that tests will go ahead but only for reading and maths. There will be no test for grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS. But not Global Positioning Systems). Teacher assessments of writing will be made, and moderation will go ahead, but science assessment is paused (will it come back?). The dates set for the KS2 tests are 10-12th May but, as with the phonics check, schools can apply to extend the window for administering the test into a second week if required.

KS2 assessment and reporting arrangements 2021

Key stage 2 tests: varying the test timetable:

Other stuff

There will be no public performance (league!) tables published this autumn or next. ASP – not in the public domain – will not be updated this year either (no new data, obviously) but will be updated in autumn 2021. The DfE have stated in the ARA that the data will be made available to Ofsted so we assume this means an updated IDSR in 2021, too. Ofsted were due to resume full inspections in January 2021 but have recently announced a delay until the summer.

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