Educational leadership & learning

This is a pure ‘cut and paste’ of what I think are the main points from the DfE consultation. I have produced this to share with our staff and governors. If it is of use to you please feel free to share it.


Primary Assessment Government consultation                                  

Teachers and school leaders have a fundamental role to play so that every child can fulfil their potential. Acquiring a good grasp of the basics of English and mathematics, as part of a rich and varied curriculum, is critical for a child’s future success.

A lot of change in primary schools in recent years, as we have worked together to raise standards, and I recognise that teachers and headteachers are still adapting to these changes.

No new national tests or assessments before the 2018-2019 academic year.

It is vital that we establish a settled, trusted primary assessment system.

Want a system that measures the progress that children make throughout their time at primary school fairly and accurately, a system that recognises teachers’ professionalism in assessing their pupils, and a system which does not impose a disproportionate burden.


Current system: KS1 & KS2

Statutory assessment plays an important role in ensuring that every child is supported to leave primary school prepared to succeed.

The Government should rightly set a clear expected standard that is ambitious.

It is important that we have an accountability system which is fair, inclusive, and properly reflects the work done by teachers to ensure that all children fulfil their potential, including those with additional needs.

We are clear that no single piece of data will determine any decision on intervention, in 2016 or beyond. Ofsted, regional schools commissioners, local authorities, governors and parents should look at a range of data, alongside the school’s broader context and performance history, rather than focusing on one piece of information alone.

Statutory assessment sits alongside a number of other important factors, including the need to teach a broad and balanced curriculum, and the wider pupil experience of attending primary school.

Statutory assessment at primary school is about measuring school performance, holding schools to account for the work they do with their pupils and identifying where pupils require more support, so that this can be provided. Primary assessment should not be about putting pressure on children.


Principles & Purposes

Our assessment system should provide rigorous, reliable and trusted data that can be used, as part of a broader range of information, to measure accurately and hold schools to account for the progress they make with their pupils.

It provides information about how pupils are performing in relation to other pupils nationally, helps teachers to understand national expectations and enables parents, teachers and schools to benchmark their school’s progress against other schools locally and nationally.

Enables the government to hold schools to account for the work they do with their pupils, to monitor national standards and to measure the impact of education policy over time.

A starting point for Ofsted’s discussions with schools.

Evidence shows that an assessment system which balances school autonomy with strong external accountability makes a positive difference to pupil achievement.



Preparing children to succeed at school

A strong approach in the early years ensures that all children have a solid foundation from which to progress.

At the national level, EYFSP data enables the government to evaluate the impact of our investment in the early years on children’s outcomes at age 5.

The EYFSP will remain in place for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Ensure that assessment in reception is reliable and trusted, and that it both demonstrates how children have developed during their early years, and provides a measure of school readiness.

Broadening a child’s vocabulary is crucial for their development. Other factors such as self-regulation can have an important influence on successful early education, including pre-reading skills and early mathematics, and could be given more weight in an improved EYFSP.

We are also aware of challenges around reliability of data obtained from the EYFSP. (year-on-year improvements)

Look at how to further reduce the workload burden on teachers… (and) consider how moderation of EYFSP results could be streamlined and improved.

Evidence does not need to be formally recorded or documented…paperwork should be kept to a minimum.


The best starting point for measuring progress

Any progress measure needs a reliable baseline, a starting point from which progress will be calculated. Ideally, that baseline should be established as early as possible.

Assessment needs to be a reliable indicator of pupils’ attainment and strongly correlate with their attainment in statutory KS2 assessments in English reading, writing and mathematics. Any baseline assessment must be appropriate and suitable for pupils, and avoid creating unnecessary burdens or perverse incentives for schools.

How to ensure the most appropriate baseline?

The point at which the baseline assessment should be taken?


Option 1: Move the starting point to Year R

There is a strong case for measuring progress from Reception to the end of year 6. We recognise that any new baseline would need careful consideration.

It is possible to create an assessment of reception age children which is suitable for that age group, sufficiently granular and well correlated with later outcomes.

Any new assessment would be designed to cover the material which we would already expect children to be familiar with at that stage…so would not result in changes to teaching practice.

Both a continuing EYFSP and a new baseline assessment in reception would therefore cover literacy and numeracy elements. We would make sure that a new baseline in reception complemented and aligned with the EYFSP.

Data from a baseline assessment could be published at national level for transparency, but we would not do so at school level. Nor would school-level data be shared with regional schools commissioners, local authorities or Ofsted.

This could be after pupils have been given enough time to settle into primary school and become accustomed to their new routines, for example at the beginning of the second half term.


Option 2: An improved KS1 baseline

Some schools and assessment experts argue that incentives have now been created for schools to deflate results at key stage 1 to demonstrate greater progress by key stage 2. To help address these concerns, it would be necessary to significantly increase moderation of teacher assessment at key stage 1.

A greater number (more than 3) of teacher assessment categories would provide a more robust and effective measure.

An alternative approach would be to collect the data from the statutory tests which pupils already sit at the end of year 2. This would provide a robust baseline without adding to teachers’ workload.

However, schools have told us previously that collecting this test data could unnecessarily raise the stakes of the tests for pupils. It is not our intention to increase the stakes of assessment, so we do not see collecting key stage 1 test data as the right long-term solution.


Interim years

Any new baseline assessment would not be in place before the 2019-2020 academic year…Up until this point, we propose continuing to use key stage 1 teacher assessment data as the baseline for the cohorts of pupils who will be completing primary school before that time.

There is the option of looking at ways of making the key stage 1 data more reliable and reducing workload in the 2018 to 2019, 2019 to 2020 and 2020 to 2021 academic years, for example by collecting key stage 1 test data to use solely as the baseline for progress measures.

However as this might unnecessarily raise the stakes of these tests we propose that we continue to use key stage 1 teacher assessment data as the baseline for measuring progress in the interim years.


The role of KS1 statutory assessments

Moving to an assessment system where, for school accountability, the progress measure is based on assessments of pupils in reception and the end of year 6, means that we would no longer need to use key stage 1 assessments as a baseline. As a result, we could remove the obligation for schools to assess pupils against statutory teacher assessment frameworks at the end of key stage 1.

We propose, therefore, making end-of-key stage 1 assessments – both teacher assessment frameworks and national curriculum tests – in English reading, English writing, mathematics and science non-statutory for all-through primary schools11 once a new baseline in reception has become fully established.

There is still value in being able to benchmark pupil performance against national standards at this point.

We would continue to expect schools to provide parents with more detailed information about their child’s performance at the end of KS1, as the midway point in primary school.


Monitoring national standards at KS1

If KS1 assessment becomes non-statutory to provide an ongoing picture of national standards we would intend to sample key stage 1 assessment data from a small proportion of schools. This data would be anonymised and would not be used for school accountability purposes.


School types and assessment

The introduction of a new assessment in reception as a baseline for measuring progress would have an impact on infant, junior and middle schools…we will need to reconsider the best accountability arrangements for these types of school.

These schools would be judged on a different basis from all-through primary schools and so would need to be compared against each other, rather than all other schools with KS2 provision.

The alternative would be to hold infant and junior schools to account using a single reception to key stage 2 progress measure, encouraging greater collaboration between infant and junior schools.

We want our statutory assessment system to strike a balance between enabling national standards to be maintained whilst limiting the burdens on teachers and children.


Collection of teacher assessment data at the end of KS2

Ongoing classroom teacher assessment is a vital part of teaching, and critical to discussions with parents. However should we continue to require statutory, summative, teacher assessment in key stage 2 English reading and mathematics, when we use only test data for headline attainment and progress measures in these subjects?

We would continue to collect teacher assessment data in science and English writing.


KS1 English grammar, punctuation and spelling test

We propose that the key stage 1 English grammar, punctuation and spelling test should remain non-statutory for schools to administer beyond the 2016-2017 academic year.


Multiplication tables check

We plan to introduce a national multiplication tables check from the 2018-2019 academic year.

Likely to be taken online.

This check would not be designed as a school accountability measure.

Results will only be published at a national and local authority level. The data will not be used to trigger inspection or intervention.

End of Y4? During Y5? During Y6?


Improving end of KS statutory teacher assessment

We would also like to consider whether there are additional opportunities to reduce burdens for schools and pupils by improving the administration of statutory assessments in primary schools.

Discussed the possibility of no longer collecting statutory teacher assessment data where it is not used in headline progress and attainment measures.

The interim teacher assessment frameworks were designed to assess whether pupils have a firm grounding in the national curriculum by requiring teachers to demonstrate that pupils can meet every ‘pupil can’ statement. This approach aims to achieve greater consistency in the judgements made by teachers and to avoid pupils moving on in their education with significant and limiting gaps.

We believe that this approach (Interim Frameworks) was broadly appropriate for English reading, mathematics and science at key stages 1 and 2. We will maintain this approach for these subjects in future years. However, we plan to review the ‘pupil can’ statements within these frameworks.



The 2011 Bew Review of key stage 2 assessment emphasised, English writing warrants a different approach to assessment, rather than the application of a test.

The interim frameworks do not provide sufficient flexibility for teachers to reach judgements which are representative of pupils’ overall ability in this subject.

Assessment should take account of both the creative and technical aspects of good writing.

Whilst the requirement to provide robust supporting evidence would continue, we would like to consider whether there are ways in which we can afford greater flexibility for teachers in making their judgements within the framework for writing.

Retain a teacher assessment framework to support assessment of writing, but instead of adhering rigidly to the ‘secure fit’ model we should move to a ‘best fit’ approach which places greater weight on the judgement of teachers.

Work with the profession to review the ‘pupil can’ statements.


I have spent time reading this informative and thought provoking book by  MikeAskew (@mikeaskew26). Below are some of the key points that resonated with me.


Contrary to popular opinion, most children rise to the challenge of ‘hard’ mathematics rather than shy away from it…dependent upon a particular style of classroom ethos, close attention to the mathematical challenges presented and support for children in their efforts.

The nature of teaching is, and always will be, an adaptive challenge, rather than a technical problem…adaptive challenges require solutions that have yet to be found. We need to work with a view of mathematics teaching as an adaptive challenge. That means trying out new ways to teach and in particular allowing pedagogies to emerge rather than imposing them.

Current practices establish norms about different abilities…Society at large also labels people.

To meet the challenges of mathematics teaching, ways of working in classrooms need to emerge through the joint activity of teachers and children. Learning does not only happen in the minds of individual children – classrooms are learning systems. By attending to how the classroom community grows and learns (teacher and children together) it is possible to create classrooms where children: engage with meaningful mathematics; learn that they can learn mathematics; develop socially and emotionally; realise the importance of inter-dependency.

Thinking about learning

“Learning…is more of a reaching out than a taking in. It is participation…The agent’s activity and identify are inseparable from his, her or its knowledge. Knowing is doing is being.”

It is the combination of the following 3 together that makes mathematical teaching powerful:

  • Learning as a collective activity
  • How learning involves becoming as well as acquiring
  • Integrating the maths that ‘emerges’ as children work on rich problems and investigations with pre-planned learning intentions

Being meaningful is not merely about relating contexts to their ‘real’ lives; it is a meaningful context they can ‘mathematise’. (E.g. Place Value in Market Stalls example)

Teachers often say that the children can understand the mathematics but cannot apply it, rather than question the assumption that there is a logical connection in going from the abstract to the application. Starting from realistic contexts and mathematizing these may help the reapplication of this mathematics to other contexts later.

How do we encourage a classroom community that is a co-operative collective rather than a collection of individuals?

Thinking about curriculum

There is little point in teaching something if 3 months later the children show no understanding of it.

Most skills in maths only make sense in relation to other ones, so picking the off in isolation isn’t the most sensible way to address them…Outside of school most learning comes about through engaging in whole activities rather than learning discrete actions or behaviours.

Reflective teaching needs to focus on the activity, the experience, of the learner, not on the actions of the teacher.

“Learning originates in the experiences of the learner, not those of the teacher.” (Bernie Neville)

If we want children to engage in maths then teaching has to be based around collective problem solving, more closely matching the communities of practice that learners are engaged in outside of school.

One of the biggest difficulties in teaching maths is the assumption that what the child brings is not significant.

Thinking about teaching

Teaching and Learning is somewhat mysterious and unpredictable and we need to accept and work with that rather than behave as though it were completely controllable.

Complicated systems: particular actions determine particular, predictable results

Complex systems: effects of particular actions are much harder, if not impossible, to predict. Gardens are typical examples as they involve multiple feedback loops that dynamically change the whole structure. The results of actions depend upon the actions, but they do not uniquely determine them.

Teaching and learning is a complex system: learning is dependent upon teaching but cannot be completely determined by it. Accepting this complexity is liberating. It means teachers accept things as they are and work from that reality, rather than wish things were different.

The role of a teacher is to optimise experiences of learning, and in doing so maximise the likelihood of learning.

Mathematical activity: mindful or fluent?

“Trying to solve a maths problem in a way dictated by the teacher is different from attempting to test one’s own hypothesis. The teacher who tells students to solve a problem in a prescribed manner is limiting their ability to investigate their surroundings and to test novel ideas.” (Langer)

We need to pay more attention to the process of coming to know rather than the end results.

Successful performance depends on engaging in co-constructing emergent mathematical activity.

Is our focus more on finding answers to calculations or more on becoming mindful of the underlying mathematics?

Do the children need to learn their tables? The point of being fluent in addition and multiplication bonds is not as an end in themselves, but how they free up working memory when tackling more interesting and engaging pieces of maths.

As learners become more fluent and confident so they become more engaged and involved in maths lessons.

It is the lack of experience that limits what children can do.

Asian children adopt addition strategies based on partitioning (e.g. 6 + 8 as 6 + 4 + 4) sooner than international peers.

Variation theory

VT provides a framework for thinking about how to maximise the likelihood of learning.

“Exposure to variation is critical for the possibility to learn, and that what is learned reflects the pattern of variation that was present in the learning situation.” (Runesson)

Directing the children to look for and think about possible connections.

Transforming the learner

“The primary aim of every teacher must be to promote the growth of students as competent, caring, loving and loveable people.” (Noddings)

Research shows that attending to relationships in maths lessons helps to raise standards.

Inequality of attainment in the primary years may be more a result of children’s different experiences than their ‘innate’ mathematical ability.

You find yourself in the flow with an optimum level of challenge that stretches your capabilities.

Build a classroom culture that emphasises listening to each other, working together and trying things out rather than waiting for the teacher to provide help.

Any worthwhile mathematical experience is going to lead at time to some difficult emotions: frustration, confusion and irritation. Confusion is a necessary part of learning mathematics and can never be removed from the process.

Building mathematical community

“A sense of belonging, of continuity, of being connected to others and to ideas and values that make our lives meaningful and significant – these needs are shared by all of us.” (Sergiovanni)

Mathematical communities needs to promote: trust, friendliness, inclusion as well as resilience, perseverance and curiosity, and be inviting, engaging and welcoming.

Work towards building and creating shared goals and values, rather than imposing rules and regulations that create an orderly class but not a community.

Learning needs periods of incubation – over more time.

‘Sharing’ needs the vital component of ideas and solutions being built upon by other learners.

Tasks, Tools, Talk

Maths not based on procedural fluency but involves understanding means learners are active constructors of knowledge, not passive recipients of it.

Setting up tasks with a certain amount of uncertainty is a way to make learners engage mindfully and bring their sense making to the activity.

Introducing models (10 frame, numberline, arrays…) takes time. Learners will only appreciate them through repeated exposure, and it takes them different time to take them on as tools for thinking…they need to be part of the pedagogical furniture of the classroom.

Talk is central to maths lessons…it mean mathematical vocab becomes part of classroom discourse.

Making sense of problems by explaining them to someone else, putting them in your own words and comparing your answer with others all help meaning to emerge.

So, in the news this week Nick Gibb has confirmed that from 2019, Year 6 pupils will undertake a Times Tables test alongside their other SATs tests.

Nick Gibb Times Tables test announcement

“Multiplication was a “very important” part of a child’s mathematics knowledge, Mr Gibb said…It is my view that there should be a multiplication check.”

To be fair I don’t disagree at all with Nick Gibb’s view that an accurate and quick recall of times tables facts (and the linked division, fraction, decimal and percentage facts) are very important. Not to pass a test (or check) but to allow pupils to focus on application of these facts when undertaking complex or lengthy calculations and problem solving. In my opinion having a secure and accurate recall and understanding of some basic mathematical knowledge is crucial in order for pupils to think and work as mathematicians.

After all if someone was learning a musical instrument they would need to know key information, such as how to play certain notes and how read music before we could expect them to play whole pieces of music fluently and expertly.

I’m not sure I even have a problem with there being a test in Year 6. By then all pupils should know these facts. But what about other facts…

Since the introduction of the Phonics screening check in Y1 and Y2, schools have invested a great deal more time on teaching phonics. Again personally I think this has had benefits, but it has also potentially minimised time and focus on other aspects of reading, and other strategies required to become a fluent and confident reader.

So what are the other aspects of Crucial Primary Maths Knowledge? And will some of these be sidelined to some extent in the drive to show high achievement in a national test linked to school accountability?

At our school we have a series of “Maths Learn Its” that go home each term (these can be viewed at Maths Learn Its or on the Numeracy Shed, thank you @grahamandre). Within school we have ‘Regular Drip’ time, which is when what we think are key reading, writing and maths knowledge is practised during registration times, and in those 5 minute slots that sometime appear before lunch or going home time.

These are then balanced with the pupils being engaged in more contextual practice and application in more open-ended problem solving lessons.

For me Crucial Primary Maths Knowledge would include:

  • Counting on and back (in different amounts: 1, 2, 5, 10, 100, 1/2…)
  • Finding 1 more or less (moving onto 10, 100, 1000, 0.1…)
  • Number bonds to 10 (and all single digit numbers) (moving onto to 20, 100, 1000, 1…)
  • Place Value knowledge and understanding, initially Tens and Ones (moving onto Hundreds, Thousands… and Tenths, Hundredths)
  • Time tables to 10 x 10 (and learning how these link to division facts, fractions, decimals and percentages)
  • Doubling and halving
  • Multiplying and dividing by 10, 100 and 1000


In his excellent book “Transforming Primary Mathematics” Mike Askew (@mikeaskew26) explains his view on ‘Elements of fluency’ he states that:

“In moving up through the years of primary mathematics children are hampered if they are not fluent in

Elements of fluency

  • adding or subtracting a single digit to any number
  • adding a multiple of 10 or 100 to any number
  • counting on or back in ones from any starting number
  • counting on or back in twos, tens or fives from any given number
  • recalling rapidly the multiplication facts up to 10 x 10
  • multiplying any number by two or ten”

He then goes on to share a second set of skills which he calls ‘Procedural fluency’. He states that these would include:

“Procedural fluency

  • knowing what to add to a number to make it a multiple of 10 or 100
  • halving any number
  • multiplying any number by five ( by multiplying by ten and then halving)
  • knowing the division facts associated with multiplication facts”


I do wonder what the views of other primary colleagues are. If you had to pick a Top 5 aspects / sets of maths knowledge / skills for your pupils to be absolutely secure, fluent and confident with by the end of Year 6 what would they be. I’d be very interested to hear.


This half term our Marvellous Minutes* at the start of our Staff Development Meetings are focused on bringing and sharing an example from the week of when we have tried to stretch / challenge / enrich (choose whichever word you wish) some of the learners in our classes. This is about celebrating our achievements, and exploring together different ways we can provide learning opportunities at greater depth, without moving onto different Learning Objectives. This is part of developing our collective understanding and actual use of ‘Mastery and Enrichment’ within our curriculum.

Year R. The class teacher explained how important listening and engaging in conversation with children is. Following a short maths activity, the teacher was listening to a boy who was still practising using his number bonds to 10 within an activity he had chosen. The teacher then asked some additional (pun intended) which developed into challenging the child to extend the range of numbers he could manipulate mentally. He went far further than the teacher had previously assumed he could. We discussed how important it was to listen in to children’s conversations to gain insight into their thinking and to challenge and extend thinking through well chosen questions.

Year 1. After a couple of lessons of deliberate practice on “o’clock” (making times on model clocks with partners, discussing / reading / drawing given times), some of the learners were challenged to apply their knowledge and understanding within a context. “A clock has the small hand at 12 and the big hand at 6. Bob thinks it is 6 o’clock. Is he correct?” The example shared also showed how the learner had explained her thinking in full sentences. This was followed with the challenge to choose 3 usual events in a day and to draw the hands to show an appropriate “o’clock” for those events.

Year 2. Following a series of lessons on the high quality story “Bog Babies”, the class were asked to write a description of a setting. The teacher (@penfoldno1) discussed how he had changed the Learning Aim from a description of the task, to one that concentrated on effective language choice to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. A group of previously identified higher attainers were briefly shown a WAGOLL that the teacher  had prepared, and then asked to write their description independently. The rest of the class then had a more detailed discussion about the WAGOLL and were encouraged to ‘magpie’ words and phrases in their own piece. We discussed how as the learners journey through the year, we need to take more scaffolded support away. By Easter we would hope for them to be independently creating their own Success Criteria for their written pieces.

Year 3. (@francescaprett2) explained that after a series of sessions of practising aspects of fractions and use of tenths as fractions and decimals (involving concrete equipment and a range of visual models) she has challenged her class with some questions in problems solving contexts. The question “prove it” was evident in many and the most worthwhile struggle came through the learners trying to explain their thinking and reasoning in a coherent and precise way.

Year 4. The class teacher shared a couple of examples of how by phrasing questions differently the challenge level had been raised for some learners even though the Learning Aim had remained the same. Towards the end of a series of fractions lessons, questions such as “1/3 of 72 = ” were mixed in with questions such as “1/5 of __ is 14. What is the missing number?” During the session today when the Learning Aim had been to convert using different units of measure, some learners were given greater support and had a longer input to explore converting ‘cm’ to ‘mm’ and vica-versa. A cut away group were moved onto their questions quicker, which involved them needing to add and subtract different measures. It included missing number questions and also introduced ‘m’ alongside ‘cm’ and ‘mm’ after a few questions. We discussed how by phrasing questions in different ways, it challenges the learners to think in different ways and raises the cognitive demand on them.

 As a reflective team, our staff are sometimes harder on themselves than they need to be. Generally the feeling amongst them is that they haven’t fully ‘got their heads around’ the ‘Mastery and Enrichment’ approach. On the evidence on today’s examples I would respectfully disagree, and think we have come a long way in our collective practice.

*The original post explaining Marvellous Minutes

I am running a free morning of CPD for local primary teachers on Friday 27 January 2017. It is taking place at Cornerstone CE Primary school (PO15 7JH) in Hampshire (Junction 9 off the M27).

I will be sharing our journey so far in developing our Teaching and Learning practice and policy, and linked Assessment procedures (since September 2014). Colleagues attending will hopefully be sharing their ideas, the practice in their classroom and schools, and hopefully we will all go away with more ideas and greater clarity.

I have attached a copy of the presentation below, but undoubtedly the professional dialogue will be the most valuable aspect of the morning.

If you live or work locally and would be interested in joining us, you would be very welcome.

Please contact the school on 01489 660750 or to book a place.

Teaching Learning Assessment 27.1.2017


Top 5 posts of 2016

Below is a list of the most popular posts on my blog during 2016.

#teacher5aday #wintercalendar

My December contribution with @vivgrant to @MatrynReah’s important Teacher Wellbeing initiaive.

Assessment Journeys 2016

The principles and processes behind our school’s developing Assessment practices, whihc aim to focus securely on the learners and making it useful and manageable for teachers.

Learning First

My thoughts about the conference I attended in September orgainsed by @AlisonMPeacock and @JuleLilly to focus on Assessment Beyond Levels.

TLT 16

A summary of the thoughts shared by a range of speakers at this year’s event in September at Southampton University.

Big Ideas in Primary Maths

A summary of our staff’s professional learning and development from a day with @mikeaskew26. Thought provoking, insightful and highly helpful.

Below are the Values that define me as a person in my role as a headteacher:


I shared more about how these have been developed over time and with colleagues in our school at Pedagoo Hamphire 16. The presentation can be viewed at:

Pedagoo Hampshire 16



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