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Lord Bew's Independent Review of Key Stage 2 (Government Response)

Volume 531: debated on Monday 18 July 2011

We are very grateful to Lord Bew and his panel of head teachers and other experts for their thoughtful, detailed and comprehensive work on their independent review of testing, assessment and accountability at key stage 2.

We believe the recommendations in Lord Bew’s final report will lead to a fairer and more effective system. We agree to the principles that underpin the final report and accept all of the recommendations in full.

We have always been clear that external accountability is vital to raising standards and narrowing attainment gaps, and we are pleased that Lord Bew’s report recognises this. While preserving strong accountability, Lord Bew’s recommendations include a number of important changes to the current system. We will encourage all agencies concerned with assessment and accountability of schools, including Ofsted, to take full account of the principles of the report.

We will publish a wider range of data, including new progress measures and three-year rolling averages, which will give a more rounded picture of school performance while allowing parents easier access to the information they need about their child. This aligns with our commitment to transparency and plans to make as much information as possible available to the public.

We also agree the recommendation to extend the time frame in which pupils who are absent on the day of a test can sit it, and will trial an extension to a week. This will apply to all pupils at the end of key stage 2 in 2012. An evaluation at the end of the test cycle will determine whether the extension will become permanent.

We welcome the fact that Lord Bew has considered the testing and assessment arrangements in each subject from the point of view of what is educationally most appropriate. We acknowledge the problems with the current writing test and agree that summative teacher assessment is the most appropriate way to assess writing composition. External moderation of that assessment will be important to ensure it is recognised as reliable and robust. We will develop and trial moderation arrangements next year and introduce them on a statutory basis from 2013. Teacher assessment judgments of writing composition will form the greater part of any overall writing judgment once the new arrangements are in place from 2013 onwards.

The Standards and Testing Agency will work with the profession on the design, implementation and administration of a test of essential skills which children need to master to become fluent, confident writers, such as spelling, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary, and consider the potential to include an assessment of handwriting in the test. We will trial the test in 2012 and intend to introduce it in 2013.

In 2012 interim arrangements for writing assessment will be required. Those arrangements should be in line with the principles in Lord Bew’s report and ensure that results are as reliable and robust as possible. Teacher assessment judgments of writing composition will make a significant contribution to the overall writing results. We also believe some external testing will be required alongside teacher assessment. We will discuss the detailed arrangements for 2012 with the profession and confirm them to schools at the start of the new school year.

We will retain externally-marked tests in reading and mathematics, and will refine them over time to ensure they are accessible to all groups of pupils. We will also retain the current system of sample testing in science.

We agree that more emphasis should be placed on teachers’ own assessments of their pupils. We accept Lord Bew’s recommendation that teacher assessment should continue to be reported alongside test data, and that schools should be required to submit teacher assessment judgments before pupils sit the tests.

We recognise that Lord Bew’s recommendations represent substantial reform to the current key stage 2 testing, assessment and accountability system. We want to act as quickly as possible to take the recommendations forward. However, change of this scale needs to be implemented carefully to ensure the positive impact is realised for all involved. We will implement the recommendations as quickly as is practicable.

We are today placing my Department’s full response to Lord Bew’s final report in the House Library.