Minister gives way to heads’ ultimatum by relaxing deadlines for controversial new primary assessments

Ministers have moved back the deadlines for the submission of key stage 1 and 2 teacher assessments until the end of June, following complaints about the new system from heads and classroom unions.

As TES revealed last night, the NAHT heads’ union had issued an ultimatum warning that if the Department for Education did not make a “dramatic change” by the end of this week, its members would “act to protect pupils and schools.”

Now schools minister, Nick Gibb, has written to the association saying he will “for one year only” relax the deadlines, which had been June 13 for KS1 and May 22 for KS2.

He said he had made the change “in recognition of the unique circumstance of teachers working with a new framework to new standards”.

Teachers’ concerns emerged after the government published materials for key stage 2 writing assessments last week. Unions believe that they will raise the bar for pupils’ attainment and cause a major increase in teachers’ workload.

The NUT teaching union has called for this year’s Sats tests to be suspended in the wake of the new requirements.

Details of the NAHT’s ultimatum were set out in an email to members, seen by TES. It said it would be a “travesty” to hold schools to account based on the new standards set out in detail last week. The email said the new expected standard was higher than expected because it was “closer to a 5c than a 4b”.

Materials to help schools implement the new standards were “unusable in the short time we have remaining to us,” it said.

The new materials meant teachers – used to making overall holistic judgements on pupils – were faced with the prospect of ticking up 198 boxes and provoked an angry reaction. The NUT claimed that the government’s new system for primary assessment had “come apart at the seams”.

Mr Gibb’s letter promises a ‘clarification’ document to “minimise any misunderstandings regarding assessment arrangements for the 2016 national curriculum tests and teacher assessments”.

“Specifically, we will aim to eliminate misunderstanding leading to unnecessary, additional workload,” it adds.

The minister has also said that Ofsted and schools commissioners and anyone holding schools to account had been made aware of the new arrangements and asked to “consider the impact of this in making any decisions about [school] performance or intervention”.

In a statement today Mr Gibb said: “We are working constructively with the teaching profession and their representatives to find solutions to some of the remaining issues. The NAHT’s readiness to work with us, rather than use the media to scaremonger, has meant that we have been able to have a sensible discussion.

“As a result we have made changes, which I hope will allay teachers’ concerns about workload and disruption, allowing us to continue working towards the goal we all want to achieve – the best possible education for all our children.”

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