Primary schools will have a new curriculum and a new way of being measured
Primary school pupils in England would be ranked more directly against their peers across the country, under new government proposals.
Pupils aged 11 would be ranked in 10% ability bands across the year group and parents told how they measured up.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “For children to achieve their potential, we need to raise the bar.”
But head teachers’ leaders described the plans, which could come in in 2016, as “disappointing and destructive”.
“Labelling an 11-year-old as a failure is totally unacceptable,” said the National Association of Head Teachers.
Mr Clegg said: “I make no apology for having high ambitions for our pupils. But for children to achieve their potential we need to raise the bar – in terms of tests, pass marks and minimum standards. I am confident that primary schools and their pupils will meet that challenge.”
As parents across the country are receiving their children’s Sats results, Mr Clegg and Schools Minister David Laws are launching a consultation on plans to overhaul England’s primary tests and targets.
They would mean significant changes to how primary schools are measured and their pupils’ achievements shown to parents.
The intention is to show whether pupils are ready for secondary school and where they are ranked against the national cohort.
Under the plans, the test results would be divided into bands of 10% and parents and schools would be able to see where their children were placed on this national scale.
There are also plans for baseline tests against which to measure progress, although it has yet to be decided how early this should take place.
There would be a tougher minimum level of achievement for schools – the so-called “floor-standard” – below which an Ofsted inspection would be triggered.
The current minimum is 60% of pupils achieving the expected level at Sats tests for English and maths. This would be replaced with an 85% minimum – but the current levels are being scrapped, so this would be 85% based on an assessment that has still to be decided.
The threshold for the tests would be that children were “secondary ready” in maths, reading, spelling, punctuation and grammar and teachers’ assessments of writing.
The government says that the levels currently used to measure progress, including the Level 4 used as the benchmark for Sats tests, are “unambitious and too broad”.
The minimum level for schools would also take into account pupils’ progress as well as their raw test results.
Under the proposals, schools would be able to develop their own way of measuring how well pupils were progressing and their ability would then be assessed with tests for all 11-year-olds in English and maths and a sample of pupils for science.
There will be extra funding for poorer pupils with a rise in the level of pupil premiums, from £900 this year to £1,300 in 2014-15.
Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, welcomed the greater recognition of pupil progress, but warned that the changes to measuring schools were built on “foundations of sand”.
“All the ‘rigour’ in the world won’t matter if you’re rigorous about the wrong things,” he said.
Brian Lightman, head of the ASCL heads’ union, said that there was a need for a more accurate testing system at the end of primary school, because secondary schools currently had to re-test their new intakes.
But he was unconvinced by the idea to rank 11-year-olds.
“I worry what will happen to those children who have tried hard yet are told that they are in one of the bottom bands. Children at that age mature differently and their confidence can be easily damaged,” he said.
NUT leader Christine Blower rejected the idea that primary schools should be measured in terms of the idea of pupils being “secondary ready”.
“The description ‘secondary ready’ will be seen as offensive and insulting to so many hard-working teachers in the primary phase. Education, from the earliest years, is not a conveyor belt to the end of secondary school,” she said.