Are we looking at a new future for primary education?
In November 2022, the Independent Commission on Assessment in Primary Education released the findings of their final report Assessment for Children’s Learning: A new future for primary education.
With a five-year programme of reform outlined, the report broadly called for:
- The main purpose of primary school assessments to be improving pupils’ learning and progress during their primary school years.
- Formative assessment of children’s learning to be the main emphasis of the assessment system.
- Assessment of pupils to be clearly separated from the means to hold schools and teachers to account.
- Assessment of pupils to provide a holistic picture of pupils’ achievements that reflects the whole curriculum, encompassing a wide range of understanding including creative thinking and collaboration.
- Assessment to be designed to support inclusive education for all children.
The findings echo the perspectives of almost 7000 educators polled for our inaugural School Report earlier in the year in which more than three-quarters of teachers viewed their purpose as developing the whole child and not just supporting their academic performance. In primary specifically:
- 78% felt too much focus is placed on academic testing as a measure of pupils’ success
- 64% said they need more freedom to enrich pupils’ skills beyond academics
- Over half (56%) of primary teachers, compared to 42% of secondary teachers, thought the current academic structure is too rigid.
The report is not the first to question the role and effectiveness of the current primary assessment system. Accelerated by the pandemic, and the related disruption to high-stakes assessment, calls for reform are gathering pace.
With a focus on holistic assessment of the whole curriculum and a broader range of skills designed to support children’s learning, the ICAPE report has been widely welcomed by practitioners and sector representatives, and they are not alone. This child centred approach to teaching and learning, catering to the needs of all learners, regardless of their background or ability, is a vital focus of our work with schools and educators across the country.
We recognise that, when used the right way, assessments of all forms can bring valuable insights to schools, educators and indeed learners and their families, but there is clearly an appetite for change at all levels.
Reports like this, and EDSK’s 2021 Making progress: The future of assessment and accountability in primary schools, facilitate discussion. Discussions, like Pearson’s primary assessment roundtables, provide a platform for change. Change is reliant on continued collaboration – recognising common ground, listening to differing perspectives, understanding and committing to improve. This collaboration stands at the heart of our work with schools and should be a central focus of any future commitment to a system of assessment that supports all children, learners and schools.
Change will not happen overnight, but only by working together can we facilitate further progress, effectively measure impact, maximise innovations, ensure inclusivity and create fair and flourishing whole-school communities.