Ministers consider the return of key stage 1 national tests

Ministers are to consider the introduction of more “rigorous” assessments for seven-year-olds, including a possible return to national testing, the government announced this evening.

The potential return of national tests for infants was first revealed by TES in June.

Now, in her first major policy speech since the election, education secretary Nicky Morgan will pledge to look again at the teacher assessments used at the end of key stage 1, to ensure there is “a firm basis for calculating progress to key stage 2”.

According to the Department for Education, officials will be working with headteachers on how the tests will take shape, to ensure they hold schools to account and “give them the full credit for the progress they achieve”.

Ministers are understood to be concerned about the existing KS1 assessments, because thousands of primary schools have opted to use test-free baseline assessments for four-year-olds.

It is believed that schools minister Nick Gibb was particularly concerned about “loading up” on two sets of teacher-assessed data to measure progress throughout primary school.

The proposals are part of a raft of education reforms that will be announced by Ms Morgan tomorrow in a speech at thinktank Policy Exchange, ushering in what she describes as a “rigour revolution”.

Among the plans will be the launch of a National Teaching Service, first suggested in October, which will send the country’s best teachers and senior leaders into the worst-performing schools. It is hoped that 1,500 will be signed up to the service by 2020.

Elsewhere, Ms Morgan will launch a consultation on the introduction of a compulsory English Baccalaureate, with the aim of 90 per cent of students sitting GCSEs in maths, English, science, a modern language and history or geography.

Part of the plan will be to introduce a headline measure on the proportion of pupils entering and achieving the EBac, to which schools will be held accountable through Ofsted.

The education secretary is also expected to name the five academy sponsors to be handed a pot of money to improve underachieving schools across the North of England, as revealed by TES last month.

REAch2, Outwood Grange Academies Trust, Wakefield City Academies, Tauheedul Education Trust and Bright Tribe will be revealed as the sponsors sharing a £5 million pot to help struggling schools in the region.

“Over the past five years we’ve extended opportunity to thousands of young people, through raised standards, heightened expectations and a rigour revolution,” Ms Morgan will say.

“But for all we’ve achieved, too many young people aren’t being given a fair shot to succeed because of where they live. That’s why today I’m announcing the creation of a National Teaching Service, sending some of our best teachers to schools in struggling areas.

“At the same time, we’re taking further steps to ensure that every pupil masters the three Rs in primary school and studies the core academic subjects in secondary school – ensuring that every young person gets the best start in life.”

The proposal to bring back national tests for seven-year-olds was heavily criticised by classroom leaders.

The NUT’s deputy general secretary, Kevin Courtney, said: “The UK already has the most excessively tested children in the whole of Europe. Parents, teachers and headteachers will be alarmed to see the latest proposals from Nicky Morgan, which suggest bringing back Sats for seven-year-olds a decade after their abolition.”

And he added: “Children and young people urgently need the formal assessment burden on them reduced. More tests at 7, involving the labelling and grading of young children, is simply the very last thing that is needed to help improve outcomes or learning.”

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