Primary schools: Assessing without levels – frequently asked questions with DfE responses

DfE logo_croppedFollowing our recent post and presentation on assessing without levels in primary schools, we have raised a number of your questions with the DfE. Here’s our summary of their responses…

Reception Baseline

Will the Reception baseline be statutory?

The Reception baseline is not statutory.  If schools do not undertake the reception baseline, when those reception cohorts reach year 6, they will be judged on an attainment floor standard alone.

What are the DfE’s criteria that baseline tests have to meet?

The DfE published criteria on 29 May 2014 for baseline tests:

When will the list of approved baseline tests be available?

The DfE aim to produce a list of reception baseline assessments which meet the criteria in April 2015.

If a child does not enter school until year 1, do they need to sit the baseline in year 1?

The DfE is still working out the approach for the small proportion of children who do not enter school in reception.

Floor Standards

Will schools be judged on a progress floor standard if they choose not to do the reception baseline?

If schools do not undertake the reception baseline, when those reception cohorts reach year 6, they will be judged on an attainment floor standard alone.

Would it be possible for schools to have an indication of what good progress might look like before Summer 2016? 

No, the DfE will not be able to set a value added score floor standard until they have seen how pupils perform in the new key stage 2 tests in 2016.

When will arrangements for measuring progress of pupils in infant and first schools from reception baseline be available?

The Department confirmed its approach to infant school accountability on 6 June 2014. A reception to key stage 1 progress measure for infant schools will be published in performance tables for the first time in 2019. This will give schools the opportunity to demonstrate the progress that their children make, in line with other primary schools. From summer 2015, half of all infant schools will have their key stage 1 assessments externally moderated to help increase confidence and consistency in these judgements.

There will not be a floor standard for infant or first schools.

Will the result of the spelling, punctuation and grammar test ever be incorporated into the attainment floor standard? 

The attainment standard from 2016 will be based on the proportion of pupils reaching the new expected standard in all of reading, writing and mathematics. To reach the new expected standard, each pupil will be required to attain a scaled score of 100 or more in the tests in each of reading and mathematics, as well as being assessed by their teacher as reaching the new expected standard in writing. A school will be above the attainment floor if 85% of pupils reach the new expected standard in each area.

Grammar, punctuation and spelling test will be used to inform teacher assessment of writing but will not form part of the floor standard measure.

What is the DfE’s reasoning for measuring children’s progress in a junior school from KS1 to KS2 and not using the baseline?

The DfE wants to be able to measure the progress pupils have made in their time at a school. They do not see that it is fair to hold a junior school to account for the progress that was made during KS1 at an infant school.

Performance descriptors

When will performance descriptors be available for schools?

The DfE aims to make performance descriptors available by the end of October 2014.

On pg 8 it says ‘For mathematics, reading, writing and speaking and listening, teachers will assess pupils as meeting one of several performance descriptors.’  What does ‘several’ mean?

Where the DfE has indicated there will be ‘several’ performance descriptors, it means that there will be different descriptors to describe different ‘levels’ of attainment.

For which year groups will performance descriptors be available?

Performance descriptors will only be available to describe performance at the end of each key stage.

Tests at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2

Will the grammar, punctuation and spelling test for key stage 1 be internally marked?

Yes, all key stage 1 tests will be internally marked.

Will there be new tests for key stage 1 each year?

Yes, it will be a new test each year.  There will be a test month and materials will need to be stored securely from receipt and for the entire test month.  Schools may decide when to administer the test within that month.

A score of 100 will be meeting the expected level.  Is there any indication of the ‘range’ of the scaled score?   What is a ‘high’ score likely to be?

The range of the scale cannot be determined until the first new tests are taken in 2016. A ‘high’ score cannot be determined until the first new tests are taken in 2016.

When will sample papers for the KS1 and 2 SATs 2016 be available?

Sample questions will be available in summer 2014 and full sample tests in summer 2015.

Will the requirement to retake the phonics screening check in year 2 remain for children who did not meet the expected level in year 1?

The requirement will remain.

Assessment of speaking and listening

There is no performance descriptor for speaking and listening at Key Stage 2.  Will there be a requirement to teacher assess speaking and listening in KS2? 

Speaking and listening will not be subject to a stand alone teacher assessment in key stage 2 but will be included in the other subjects where relevant, for example in reading.

Assessment of writing at key stage 1 and 2

How will writing be assessed?

Writing will be teacher assessed and the teacher assessment will be informed by the grammar, punctuation and spelling test at both key stages

Will the DfE be providing exemplification of the expected levels in writing for moderation/standardisation purposes in 2016 and when will this be available?

The DfE will be providing exemplification materials. They plan to make these available to schools in autumn 2015.


Remember, you can see our previous post on Assessing Without Levels here and download a PDF of the presentation here…


Penny Boardman and Lorraine Woollven

If you have any more questions for Penny and Lorraine on assessing without levels in primary school please let them know using this form. Alternatively, for this or any other schools improvement or professional development needs please call us on 01934 427508

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