Today’s news review looks at coverage of a new consultation on primary assessment, including the reaction from unions, teachers and parents.
It also covers a speech by the Secretary of State on social mobility, HSBC’s plans to introduce gender-neutral titles, and analysis showing that many grammar schools are planning to take more children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Yesterday, Thursday, 30 March, the Secretary of State announced the launch of a consultation to create a long-term, stable and proportionate system for assessing children in primary school.
The 12 week consultation seeks views on a wide range of proposals, including the best starting point to measure children’s progress in primary school and making Key Stage 1 tests (at age 7) non-compulsory. We want to help children learn and ensure they master the basics in literacy and numeracy from a young age, yet also free up teachers to spend their time where it is needed most.
The consultation has been widely reported in the media as a positive move from the Secretary of State after engaging with the concerns of school leaders. Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the NAHT, said this was “good news”, minimising the number of high stakes tests, reducing teacher workload and helping schools to deliver a rich educational experience for all children.
Education Secretary Justine Greening said:
The Government has reformed the primary school system to make sure children can master the basics of literacy and numeracy so they get the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in later life.
Now we want to build on that by developing a stable assessment system that helps children learn, while freeing up teachers to do what they do best – supporting children to fulfil their potential.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
This consultation is the result of months of detailed talks between education unions and the Department for Education. We appreciate the engagement of the Secretary of State with the concerns of school leaders.
The government has listened to many of the principles and recommendations contained in NAHT’s independent Assessment Review Group Report. There is more to be accomplished but we’ve made good progress from where we were a year ago.
Julie McCulloch, Primary Specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
We welcome many of the proposals in this consultation, particularly the commitment to review the statutory status of national tests for seven year olds.
This shows the government has listened to our concerns about the significant burden the current assessment system places on both pupils and teachers and is willing to take steps to reduce these pressures.
It follows the sensible step it took last year not to go ahead with Year 7 resits, and we are pleased that it is committed to working with the profession productively in the best interests of children.
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said:
ATL welcomes today’s proposals that could see the end of national tests for seven-year-olds.
We have long campaigned for an end to national testing for all primary school children and we are pleased that the Government appears to be listening.
You can read the full Written Ministerial Statement here.
Yesterday, Thursday 30 March, the Secretary of State addressed the Social Mobility Commission conference about her commitment to transforming social mobility.
The ‘Left Behind Britain’ conference, hosted by the Social Mobility Commission and University of Bath, brought together political leaders, charities, think tanks and businesses to increase understanding and explore new solutions into tackling the issue.
She outlined her plans to strip away the barriers that some people face so that everybody, regardless of their background or where they are from, can go as far as their talents can take them.
That is why we are creating more good school places in more parts of the country and opening up access to our world-class higher education system to those from disadvantaged backgrounds. We are also investing in skills and putting an extra £500 million each year into technical education.
To tackle geographical disadvantage, we now have twelve Opportunity Areas that are bringing together businesses, schools, communities and the government to broaden the horizons of young people.
The full speech is available here.
It was reported today that HSBC customers will now be able to choose from 10 different gender neutral titles to help the bank to be more transgender-friendly.
The bank has also launched the new services for transgender and gender neutral customers to coincide with Transgender Day of Visibility.
The Government Equalities Office welcomes the fact that HSBC is giving transgender people more choice about how they identify. We are delighted that another bank is embracing gender diversity and inclusion and we hope others will follow suit.
Grammar school admissions
Today, 31 March, the TES reported that at least 50 grammar schools have changed their admissions arrangements to take more children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
This equates to more than one third of the 138 existing grammar schools.
For example, from September 2018 Liverpool Blue Coat School will have a slightly lower entrance pass mark for up to 27 pupils on free school meals. Headteacher Mike Pennington told TES that social mobility in Liverpool is a important issue to tackle and that the schools was prepared to try things to change it.
We know that grammar schools play a vitally important role for the disadvantaged children that attend them; the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their better-off classmates is virtually eliminated.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
We want to create a country where everyone has a fair chance to go as far as their talents will take them, and education is at the heart of this.
Thanks to our reforms there are nearly 1.8 million more children in school rated good or outstanding than in 2010, while the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers is narrowing. This year alone we are spending £2.5 billion through the pupil premium to tackle educational inequality.
But there is more to do. We know bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds thrive at grammar schools, which is why we have set out plans to end the ban on new grammars and enable new selective school places to be provided, with conditions in place to ensure they contribute to the improvement of the wider schools system. This, together along with our proposals to harness the expertise of our universities, independent and faith schools will create more good schools places across the country.