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Draft  Response  to  DfE  Consultation:  

“Performance  Indicators  for  use  in  Key  Stage  1  and  2  Statutory  Teacher  
Assessment  for  2015  /  2016”  
 
Prof  George  A.  Constantinides  
10  November  2014  
 
 
In  this  briefing,  I  outline  my  draft  response  to  the  above  DfE  consultation.  Others  should  
feel  free  to  use  my  arguments  and/or  my  text  and  share  theirs  with  me.    
 
 
1.  Do  the  names  of  the  draft  performance  descriptors  allow  teachers  and  parents  to  
understand  the  meaning  of,  and  differentiate  between,  each  performance  descriptor?  
 
No.    
 
The  terminology  “working  towards  the  national  standard”  versus  “working  below  the  
national  standard”  is  confusing.  If  a  pupil  is  still  working  towards  a  standard  then  it  
would  seem  natural  to  assume  that  he/she  has  not  yet  met  the  standard  and  so  is  
working  below  the  standard.  
 
In  practice,  the  system  of  multiple  performance  descriptors  for  teacher  assessment  
introduces  a  levelling.  However,  unlike  the  system  of  levels  which  it  replaces,  the  new  
system  places  a  cap  on  reported  attainment  at  the  level  corresponding  to  mastery  of  the  
national  curriculum  at  a  given  pupil’s  key  stage.  
 
 
2.  Are  the  performance  descriptors  spaced  effectively  across  the  range  of  pupils’  
performance  to  support  accurate  and  consistent  judgements?    
 
 
No.    
 
a.  For  teacher  assessments,  there  are  a  set  of  minimum  standards  that  must  be  met  in  
order  to  be  judged  to  be  “working  below  national  standard”  (e.g  p.8  of  the  consultation  
document).  However,  this  appears  to  make  no  sense  because  this  is  the  lowest  
assessment  level.  If  pupils  have  not  met  these  criteria,  will  they  still  be  awarded  this  
judgement  unless  assessed  against  P-­‐scales?  
 
b.  Those  subjects  judged  by  test  only  have  one  performance  descriptor  and  therefore  
clearly  do  not  have  performance  descriptors  spaced  effectively  across  the  range  of  
pupils’  performance.  This  is  a  serious  flaw.  
 
c.  Even  those  subjects  judged  by  teacher  assessment  do  not  extend  into  the  range  of  
material  high  attaining  pupils  can  be  expected  to  master  while  in  a  given  key  stage.  
While  we  note  that  “any  pupils  considered  to  have  attained  the  ‘Mastery  standard’  are  
expected  to  explore  the  curriculum  in  greater  depth  and  build  on  the  breadth  of  their  
knowledge  and  skills  within  that  key  stage.”  [Para  13],  the  proposed  performance  
descriptors  provide  no  way  of  evidencing  “greater  depth  and  breadth”  than  the  mastery  
standard.  This  is  a  very  serious  omission.  
 
 
 

3.  In  your  opinion,  are  the  performance  descriptors  clear  and  easy  to  understand?    
 
No.    
 
A  concrete  example  is    “begin  to  find  1/3  and  1/4  of  a  small  set  of  objects”.  What  does  
“begin  to  find”  mean,  and  how  is  it  different  to  “find”?  How  large  is  a  “small  set  of  
objects”?    
 
Another  concrete  example  is  “reason  about  and  solve  more  complex  problems  involving  
shapes  and  their  properties”.  More  complex  than  what?  Which  properties?  Arguably,  this  
criterion  could  always  or  never  be  met  depending  on  interpretation.  
 
There  are  many  other  such  examples  in  the  document.  In  our  view,  the  DfE  should  
carefully  evaluate  these  criteria  in  order  to  ensure  that  the  overwhelming  majority  of  
teachers,  whether  specialists  in  the  subject  under  assessment  or  not,  would  come  to  the  
same  conclusion  over  whether  a  particular  piece  of  work  is  demonstrable  evidence  of  
having  met  a  particular  criterion.  
 
 
 
4.  In  your  opinion,  does  the  content  of  the  performance  descriptors  adequately  reflect  the  
national  curriculum  programmes  of  study?  
 
Given  that  assessment  is  on  a  “best  fit”  basis,  we  see  no  reason  for  a  separate  set  of  
performance  descriptors  beyond  the  information  already  in  the  National  Curriculum  
programmes  of  study.  In  particular,  we  note  that  Paragraph  3  states  
 
Levels  were  intended  to  provide  a  universal  framework  to  ensure  that  schools  were  
measuring  attainment  and  progress  consistently.  But,  over  time,  it  became  clear  
that  the  level  descriptors,  which  were  not  closely  related  to  curriculum  content,  
were  ambiguous  and  open  to  different  interpretations  
 
We  believe  that  the  proposed  system  of  performance  descriptors  is  no  less  or  more  
susceptible  to  drift  from  programmes  of  study  or  to  ambiguity  than  level  descriptors.    
 
Given  the  clarity  of  the  statements  in  the  programmes  of  study,  we  propose  that  
assessment  should  be  a  best  fit  against  these  statements,  with  the  underlying  question  
“which  year  group  expectation  in  the  programme  of  study  can  this  pupil  be  best  
described  as  operating  at?”  Where  the  DfE  believes  that  there  is  insufficient  detail  in  the  
programmes  of  study  to  make  such  an  assessment  (e.g.  in  subjects  without  year-­‐by-­‐year  
curriculum  content)  we  believe  that  such  detail  should  be  added  directly  to  the  
programmes  of  study  if  statutory  and  comparable  assessment  is  expected.  
 
 
5.  Should  any  element  of  the  performance  descriptors  be  weighted  (i.e.  should  any  element  
be  considered  more  important  or  less  important  than  others?)  
 
No.  
 
Because  the  assessment  is  to  be  by  “best  fit”,  it  is  not  clear  how  weighting  of  criteria  
could  work  in  this  context.  
 
 

6.  If  you  have  any  further  comments  regarding  the  performance  descriptors,  please  provide  
details.  For  example,  is  there  further  supporting  information  that  would  be  helpful  in  
understanding  and  using  the  performance  descriptors?    
 
 
a.  We  note  with  some  alarm  that  the  highest  level  of  attainment  in  KS2  measurable  
under  the  proposed  assessments  is  significantly  below  the  highest  level  of  attainment  
measurable  in  SATs  up  to  2015.  In  particular,  children  assessed  to  be  “working  at  
national  standard”  in  2016  may  show  a  level  of  mastery  of  subject  content  significantly  
below  that  expected  to  achieve  a  Level  6  in  SATs  in  2015.  We  view  this  as  a  serious  
concern;  we  are  worried  that  without  the  oversight  of  statutory  assessment,  which  
covers  neither  “broadening  and  deepening”  nor  “extending”  beyond  the  mastery  of  key  
stage  content,  some  schools  may  drift  towards  a  “dumbing  down”  of  the  curriculum,  
with  using  the  new  descriptors  as  a  ceiling  for  content  rather  than  a  baseline  for  
learning.  Secondary  schools  will  be  left  to  pick  up  the  learning  previously  covered  in  
primary  schools,  putting  further  pressure  on  secondary  schools,  and  the  rate  of  GCSEs  
passed  at  the  highest  grades  may  directly  suffer  as  a  result.  
 
b.  Paragraph  3  of  the  consultation  states  that  “the  assessment  and  test  data  will  enable  
parents  to  compare  attainment  and  progress  in  different  schools.”  
 
We  do  not  have  confidence  that  the  proposed  assessment  and  test  data  will  enable  
parents  to  compare  progress  in  different  schools  to  any  reliable  degree.  In  Maths  and  
Reading,  the  maximum  level  of  attainment  that  can  be  reported  at  KS1  is  “Mastery”  
whereas  at  KS2  it  is  “Working  at  the  National  Standard”.  Consider  two  pupils  A  and  B.  
Pupil  A  was  assessed  at  KS1  as  “Working  Towards  the  National  Standard”,  Pupil  B  was  
assessed  at  KS1  as  “Working  at  Mastery  Standard”.  The  maximum  progress  that  can  be  
shown  between  key  stages  for  Pupil  B  is  necessarily  less  than  for  Pupil  A,  and  occurs  
when  both  are  assessed  at  KS2  as  “Working  at  the  National  Standard”.  There  needs  to  be  
a  much  finer  granularity  of  attainment  reported  at  KS2,  and  it  needs  to  extend  higher  
than  Mastery  of  the  content  outlined.  
 
c.  We  note  that  there  is  a  specific  paragraph  dealing  with  lower  attaining  pupils,  and  that  
it  may  be  possible  to  assess  pupils  who  move  through  material  at  a  naturally  slow  rate  
(using  P-­‐scales).  We  note  an  imbalance  of  approach,  with  no  corresponding  way  to  
assess  high  attaining  pupils  who  may  be  able  to  move  through  material  at  a  naturally  
high  rate.