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Ensure that assessments at the end of primary school draw from a rich knowledge base

Last updated: 10:04am 9 January 2019

…and we will ensure that assessments at the end of primary school draw from a rich knowledge base, and reduce teaching to the test.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.51

Our verdict

Primary school assessments have long been on the government’s agenda. The previous administration made significant changes to the way primary schools test children, with the stated aim of making tests “more ambitious for all children and fairer to all schools“.

One of the main criticisms of this government’s approach to education is the idea that schools are “teaching to the test”, rather than focusing on broadening children’s knowledge base. The concern is that pupils may be missing out on a good education in order to attain better exam results. This policy is an attempt to address that concern.

The background to this is the new national curriculum, introduced in 2014. With the new curriculum, exams were made harder as the Department for Education tried to raise standards, better preparing children for the future.

The government is continuing to look into the best ways of assessing children, most recently with the Rochford Review, and the Primary Assessment consultation. However, arguments around the best approach to primary school teaching and testing continue, with the head of the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) declaring that “the expertise in and focus on the curriculum has waned“.

The debates around assessment in education look set to continue, but the government has been implementing legislation and engaging in consultation on this policy area, so we’re marking it as ‘in progress’. To move it to ‘done’, we would require evidence of a general consensus in the education sector that the focus in primary schools was firmly on providing a “rich knowledge base”. Watch this space!

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