CIE0126

Written evidence submitted by More Than A Score (MTAS)

 

Education Committee Call for Evidence:

The impact of COVID-19 on education and children’s services

Response of More Than a Score

More Than A Score (MTAS) is a growing coalition of head teachers, teachers, parents and education experts who believe that the current system of standardised testing in primary schools is not fit for purpose. We campaign to change the way primary children are assessed and the way primary schools are held accountable.

A list of our members is included at the end of this response.

 

This response focuses only on the effect of cancelling statutory tests in primary schools.

MTAS believes that:

1               Statutory tests in primary schools, including KS1 and KS2 SATs, should not be reinstated when all children can safely return to school. Reception baseline assessment should not be introduced next term. Government rightly cancelled all statutory tests when they closed schools to children other than the most vulnerable and those of key workers on 20th March 2020. We believe that there is, now more than ever, a need for a new approach to primary assessment and primary accountability.

 

2               Primary schools should be judged on the overall quality of education they provide, not the results of a narrow set of standardised tests[1]. We believe that the current system of five statutory tests out of seven primary school years is not fit for purpose. Our 2019 research[2] shows that school leaders agree. An overwhelming majority (93%) of senior leaders in primary schools told us they believe that the government should review the current system of standardised assessment. We are calling on government to apply findings from the substantial research into effective assessment and work with the profession to design a new system of primary assessment fit for the 21st century. During a crisis of this magnitude, it is even more important that schools and teachers are enabled to apply their professional skill and judgement in determining how best to educate and support the children in their care.

 

3               While this crisis continues the data from statutory tests will be fundamentally flawed. This is because of the impact of the extraordinary circumstances on children’s lives and because children have missed considerable learning time and other school experiences.

 

4               Cancelling statutory tests will have no impact on decisions in respect of where children go after they leave their current primary, nursery or infant school[3], further the results of statutory tests will have no impact on children’s learning or their well-being.

 

5               Our research[4] shows that parents do not use the results of tests to judge schools. In fact only 16% of parents believe it is right to use SATs and other formal tests to rank primary schools. We know that parents overwhelmingly care about their children’s well-being and overall education, not test results. This will be particularly true during this time of crisis and during the transition period afterwards.

 

Cancelling statutory tests when all children return to school will:

 

6               Allow teachers more time to focus on settling children back into school, particularly if school is to look quite different as a result of social distancing, and to re-engage them with learning. Children’s welfare and well-being will be the top priority for schools as they are prerequisites for effective learning. Schools will need to take into account the impact of the current crisis on all aspects of children’s lives.

 

7               Allow teachers more time for teaching, including areas of learning that children have missed. When all children return to school it will be important that their learning objectives are appropriate and take into account the fact that there will be gaps in their learning that need to be addressed first. Skilled teacher assessment is the best way to decide on how to support children and their next steps. Statutory test results will not help this process.

 

8               Allow teachers and other adults more time to spend on the emotional needs of children. It is critical that children's experiences in primary school are appropriate in meeting their needs socially and emotionally as well as academically. Schools will also be working hard to counter the effects of the missed opportunity for children to learn (and play) with peers, teachers and other support staff. Many children will be feeling anxious about the current situation, some will have been bereaved or suffered significant trauma. Schools will need to focus on the well-being of the whole school community, a process that will take more than one term, particularly as we face unknown disruption in the months ahead. Teachers will need time to teach children the knowledge and skills they need to cope with the current situation and the future, including addressing their wider concerns about the world.

 

9               Put trust in teacher assessment, which creates a diagnostic picture of each child over time. Teachers carry out their own ongoing detailed diagnostic assessments of all children to support teaching and learning regardless of whether they are required to administer statutory tests. Assessment in primary schools should be an important learning experience. Assessment should include on-going feedback that enhances progress and engages children in continuous self-reflection, rather than a single, narrow and potentially damaging evaluation of a child's performance, which is designed to measure the effectiveness of the school rather than understand what the child can do. Diagnostic assessment will be particularly important after this period of school closures to enable teachers to ascertain why and how some children are struggling and what learning support they need.

 

10           Not affect how children are taught to read. In the case of the phonics screening test, the support teachers offer to individual children who struggle with reading relies on diagnosing a range of reading skills as not all reading difficulties rest with phonics processing.  This responsibility rests with the teacher regardless of the phonics test scores of pupils, and cancelling phonics screening will free up time for teachers to focus on supporting pupils with their reading.

 

11           End the unintended consequences of high-stakes testing such as narrowing the curriculum and teaching to the test[5]. Because most children have missed substantial time in school it is now more important than ever that when pupils return teachers are enabled to decide how and what they should be taught. This will enable them to catch up on the range and depth of learning they have missed, rather than spending valuable time concentrating on the more narrow content that they will be tested on.

Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) should not be introduced:

12           RBA is not fit for purpose and does not offer any additional information that is not already gathered by schools in their own baseline assessments of reception children. School’s own assessments will be much broader than this proposed statutory test and are more reliable because they are carried out in a natural learning situation. These assessments will be much more useful and important for teachers to assess the needs of children returning after a long period away from school. Helping children to settle and be ready to learn will present a huge challenge for schools in the coming school year as reception children will have missed out on pre-school experiences.

 

13           RBA has a huge workload implication for teachers (both in training how to use it and in time out of class).  It is not good use of teacher time particularly when teachers will need to spend more time helping children settle and more time talking to parents/carers to find out about children’s starting points and any concerns. This is especially relevant because there will be less transition information from previous settings. Schools will also need to focus on children’s wellbeing and their personal, social, emotional and physical development, to ensure they are ready to learn. 

 

14           We oppose the introduction of RBA in all circumstances but there are compelling reasons why RBA should not be introduced during this crisis. This is because:

 

15           For Reception children cancellation of the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile in the academic year 2019/20 (summary assessment by teachers based on observation over the whole school year, not a formal test) will reduce the information available to Year 1 teachers next year to support transition.  This could disadvantage some children whose potential difficulties and individual needs may take time to be picked up. A period of observational assessment over some weeks will be needed in Year 1 to determine starting points. In early years there will be a loss of data at national and local authority level which is widely used to monitor for possible impacts of disadvantage. Schools will therefore need to approach the Year 1 curriculum flexibly, to support transition for children.

Conclusion:

16           We believe that the statutory tests system needs urgent reform. In the current situation, more than ever, administering statutory tests will take teachers and other staff away from the crucial work of teaching and helping children to catch up on the essential learning they have missed, supporting children’s readiness to learn and their well-being.

 

17           Not requiring primary schools to carry out statutory tests when children return to school will remove an unhelpful and unnecessary layer of pressure from school life and create more time for teachers to spend with children as outlined in this submission. Uncertainty around how the virus will continue to impact our lives both now and in future, makes what was an already deeply flawed system unworkable. Continuing as before would be damaging to children’s learning and their well-being.

 

18           Because children have already missed significant time at school the data from statutory tests will not produce valuable information to support children’s learning and will therefore be fundamentally flawed in any event.

 

19           MTAS is grateful for the opportunity to respond to this important inquiry and willing to be further consulted and to assist in any way that it can.

 

Anna Cole

More Than A Score

https://www.morethanascore.org.uk/

 

 

 


More Than A Score evidence and research

 

The Case Against Standardised Testing

Our research shows that standardised testing leads to a narrowing of the curriculum, and places an added burden on children’s self-esteem, well-being and mental health.

 

It shows that SATs lead to an education that fails to meet the needs of all children and places additional pressure on teachers. It shows that the phonics check restricts teaching methods and hampers children’s love of reading.

 

What's the alternative?

We believe assessment of children’s learning is essential for both teachers and parents. We also believe that schools should be measured and held accountable to children, parents, local communities and the government.

 

At More Than A Score, we are committed to:

See https://www.morethanascore.org.uk/evidence/#case-against-testing

 

Primary school leaders verdict on primary assessment, research conducted in 2019 https://www.morethanascore.org.uk/primary-school-leaders-deliver-damning-verdict-on-high-pressure-testing/ 

MTAS commissioned YouGov to survey over 200 primary school leaders in 2019 to investigate their views on assessment:

What parents really think about standardised testing in primary schools, parents research from 2019  https://www.morethanascore.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Parents-research.pdf

MTAS commissioned YouGov to survey over 2000 parents of primary age children in 2019 to investigate their views on assessment:

 

Inappropriate, unhelpful and unnecessary: the headteachers' verdict on Baseline Assessment https://www.morethanascore.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Baseline-Research.pdf

Research into the 2019 Pilot of Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) https://www.morethanascore.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Thats-not-why-Im-a-teacher.pdf

Baseline Assessment: Why It Doesn’t Add Up https://www.morethanascore.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Baseline_Assesment_It_Doesnt_Add_Up.pdf

 

Pressure, anxiety and collateral damage: the headteachers' verdict on SATs https://www.morethanascore.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/SATs-research.pdf

The Phonics Screening Check: An Independent Enquiry into the views of heads, parents and pupils https://www.newman.ac.uk/knowledge-base/the-phonics-screening-check-2012-2017/ 

Members of the More Than A Score campaign

Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP) is the professional body for psychoanalytic Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists in the UK, committed to promoting and upholding the highest standards of psychoanalytic child and adolescent psychotherapy.

Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) is the only trade union and professional association organised exclusively for and by Educational Psychologists in the UK.

British Educational Research Association (BERA) is a membership association that aims to inform the development of policy and practice by promoting the best quality evidence produced by educational research.

Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network (ECSDN) promotes and advocates education and research for the continuing development of a highly qualified early childhood graduate profession and workforce; and provides critical perspectives on, and a forum for, early childhood policies, initiatives and legislation. ECSDN is at the forefront of development of quality within ECS degrees, QAA Early Childhood Studies Benchmark Statements (2007/2014) and the ECS Graduate Competencies at Level 6.

Early Education is a national charity and membership organisation supporting early years practitioners with training, resources and professional networks, and campaigning for quality education for the youngest children. We believe every child deserves the best possible start in life and support to fulfil their potential.

Keeping Early Years Unique is a movement bringing together and empowering early years advocates from around the world, promoting holistic learning alongside a sound knowledge of child development.

Let Our Kids Be Kids was launched in 2016 by parents who’ve had enough… enough of endless testing, enough of teachers not being trusted to teach, enough of an Ofsted driven, dull, dry curriculum aimed solely at passing National Curriculum Tests .

Montessori Group exists to encourage and promote education in every way. It facilitates the unification of the Montessori movement across the UK, providing relevant training and funding research into the value and effectiveness of Montessori education, and awards to support Montessori education.

National Association for Primary Education (NAPE) brings together everyone who has a concern for the learning of children from birth to 13 years. Members and affiliated schools work to improve education through the Early, Primary and Middle Years.

National Education Union (NEU) stands up for the future of education by bringing together more than 450,000 education professionals across the UK. We’re committed to making education a great place to work, a great place to teach, and a great place to learn. 

 

Primary Charter Teachers, support staff, parents, educationalists - for a primary sector with the child at its centre.

 

Reclaiming Schools was set up to support campaigns for progressive and socially responsible education. Our aim is to make reliable research available to teachers and the wider community.

Rescue Our Schools is a parent-led group who want to overcome the adverse impact of changes to our state education system, and who believe it is time to stand up for an education system that is rooted in community, where teachers are trusted as professionals, and where every child can flourish.

Save Childhood Movement was launched in 2013 and consists of a growing collaboration of individuals and organisations that share a deep concern about societal values and wellbeing and the current erosion of natural childhood.

Save Our Schools (SOS) A parent-led group based in Brighton and Hove campaigning against damaging education policy and school funding cuts. 

 

Sightlines Initiative an independent national organisation promoting enquiry-based approaches to, and creative and reflective practice in, early childhood education.

Slow Education an evidence-based initiative to make time in the classroom for creative teaching and learning.

Association for Professional Development in Early Years (TACTYC) promotes the highest quality professional development for all early years practitioners in order to enhance the educational well-being of the youngest children.

The United Kingdom Literacy Association is a registered charity, which has as its sole object the advancement of education in literacy.

5x5x5 = creativity is an independent arts-based action research organisation which supports children in their exploration and expression of ideas, helping them develop creative skills for life.

 

 

May 2020

 

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[1] See https://www.morethanascore.org.uk/evidence/ for why, see https://www.morethanascore.org.uk/what-we-do/ for information about us and our current campaigns.

[2] https://www.morethanascore.org.uk/primary-school-leaders-deliver-damning-verdict-on-high-pressure-testing/

[3] Data from statutory tests do not act as gateway measures. Many secondary schools consider KS2 SATs an unreliable measure of children's achievement in any event and run their own diagnostic tests in Year 7.  

[4] https://www.morethanascore.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Parents-research.pdf

[5] See https://www.morethanascore.org.uk/evidence/#case-against-testing