Raising standards and narrowing gaps are the central goals of the Government’s education policy. The Government is determined to ensure that all children have the opportunity to succeed and knows that teachers and heads share that determination.
The Government believes that its goals are best achieved through ensuring that schools and teachers are free to set their own direction, trusted to exercise their professional discretion and accountable for the progress of the children in their care. Mindful that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) concludes that external accountability is a key driver of improvement in education and particularly important for the least advantaged, the Government continues to view a system of objectively measuring pupil progress and holding schools to account as vital.
However, there is evidence that, under the current system, too many schools feel they must drill children for tests and are spending too much time on test preparation in Year 6 at the expense of productive teaching and learning. There are also concerns about a focus on children at the borderline of levels. This is clearly undesirable. The profession itself has raised concerns about the way assessment currently contributes to accountability.
In light of this, the Secretary of State has commissioned this review to consider the testing and accountability system for primary schools in England. It will cover the following key issues:
The review will be open, transparent and outward facing. A 12-week call for evidence will be issued inviting all interested parties – including primary, middle and special schools – to contribute to the review and to improving the testing and accountability system. After the 12-week period has concluded, the review panel will publish a progress report summarising the evidence gathered.
The review panel will publish a final report, outlining the evidence and issues it has considered, and making their recommendations. This report will be submitted to the Secretary of State by June 2011.
The review will also consider the emerging conclusions of the review of the National Curriculum which is due to be launched later this year. The review may be invited to consider developing thinking from the National Curriculum Review and suggest how testing and accountability could be taken forward in the longer term.