Moderation problems will make it impossible to evaluate primary schools fairly, heads say

Inconsistencies are putting the whole assessment process in jeopardy, they claim

Dramatic variations in the moderation of this year’s controversial primary teacher assessments of pupils’ writing jeopardise the validity of the entire process, headteachers are warning.

Moderation is supposed to ensure that the results – used as high-stakes accountability measures – are produced nationally on the same basis and enable like-for-like comparisons between schools.

But heads are reporting so much variation between what moderators in different local authorities expect that they think fair evaluations of school performance will be impossible.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, told TES: “Writing results will vary dramatically across the country – not because of the performance in schools but because of the different approaches to moderation.

“We are getting lots of reports from our members, so it is quite widespread. Some authorities are taking a reasonable approach and some are very hardline.”

Lack of clarity

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT teaching union, said he had also been contacted by members over concerns about moderation. “I think this problem lies at the government’s door,” he said. “There’s been a lack of clarity from beginning to end of how this writing work is to be assessed and it has led to a variation of different approaches being adopted in different authorities.

“It makes us reiterate that results of these tests should not be used. They are not robust and not giving worthwhile information.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “As long as our guidance is being followed, comparability of teacher assessments will be consistent. The Standards and Testing Agency also carries out its own moderation on 25 per cent of local authorities to ensure that they are abiding by the guidance.”

This is an edited article from the 10 June edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. 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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