Union calls for review of ‘chaotic’ primary assessment

NAHT president Kim Johnson will call it the “hokey cokey” of assessment at the union’s conference today.

Almost all primary school leaders believe that the government’s testing regime is “chaotic and distracting”, according to the NAHT heads’ union.

The union has called for a review of primary assessment following a series of mistakes in planning and implementing tests this year, which, they argue, have had a “negative effect” on children’s education.

At its annual conference in Birmingham today, new NAHT president Kim Johnson will poke fun at the government’s most recent blunder – publishing the key stage 1 grammar, punctuation and spelling test paper online – by referring to the “hokey cokey” of assessment.

According to the headteachers’ union, there has been a series of key mistakes this year – including the design of a Reception baseline that was cancelled, a lack of time to implement changes and a focus on tick-box skills.

NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby believes that a “better system of assessment” is needed to avoid another year of “chaos”.

“The government must step back from its piecemeal, last-minute changes and engage with the profession now – well in advance of next year – in a fundamental review of assessment from Reception to key stage 3,” he said.

Some 98 per cent of primary leaders who signed up to the NAHT’s online Assessment Pledge agreed that they found the current testing regime “chaotic and distracting”.

Teachers signing the pledge agree to support the union’s campaign against badly thought-out changes to assessment.

Mr Hobby stressed: “Now is the time to call for a better system of assessment – one that works for parents, pupils and teachers, rather than one that just ticks boxes for bureaucrats and politicians.”

In his first presidential speech, Mr Johnson will ask whether over-testing has contributed to predictions that depression will be the most prevalent child disorder by 2020.

He will add that he wants the experience of his grandchildren “to be one where curiosity, creativity and discovery” are important.

He will say: “I don’t want each of those weighed and tested so often that they remember the test rather than the content of the wonder of learning.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are always willing to engage in discussion with teaching unions to ensure that this transition year goes smoothly.”

This is an article from the 29 April edition of TES. This week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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