Two other aspects worried me, the implication from the then school’s minister David Laws, that a 4b was the standard from which children achieved 5 A*-C at GCSE, and the idea of being “Secondary ready”; the first because it put all the pressure on primaries instead of questioning what Secondary schools had been doing to transition from transfer information to achieve their handful of GCSEs; the second, because, uttered in the same speech, without further definition, offered the possibility to argue at a later stage that any child not “secondary ready” might need to be kept down.
In the event, children not reaching “national standard” will be retested at the end of year 7.
Much has been written about the “post levels” world. I’m still not convinced that we have moved beyond replacing levelness with year-ness in Primary, especially with testing at 5, 6, 7 and 11. Children will either be up with peers or not. In the colloquial world, these children will be failing and failures, talked about by parents and with peers. A new hierarchy and new labels will emerge, with the system enabling it to do so, from the age of 5 or 6. What does “emerging” mean anyway? What of the child who is always “emerging”?
The casualties within the new curriculum, through apocryphal stories, are the subjects beyond maths and English. This, to me, removes the knowledge subjects much beloved of Hirsch advocates and also Gove, Gibb and Morgan, which could be seen as an unintended outcome of the assessment and accountability agenda. Those children who may not achieve at national level may do so simply because their background understanding of the world, through limited home experiences or restricted access to places of interest, doesn’t enable them to expand within their writing task, by incorporating wider reading and experiences.
This is all exacerbated by the Government continually updating their advice to schools. While some argue that the new assessment regime requires multiple boxes to be ticked as "evidence", and many will do so, just to be on the safe side, a statement that this is not necessary has yet to be tested in practice. If moderation is random selection of scripts, how else does a school demonstrate it's understanding of a child's ability? Ticking all the boxes may well be the only sure fire way to do so.
The best way for all children to achieve well, at the end of their Primary career, is to have enjoyed a significantly rich curriculum, drawing from every subject to enhance the core maths and English, both of which, at various times are subservient elements of deeper understanding in other subjects.
And, in the final analysis, I don’t think Secondary schools will accept the new data any more than they took the outcomes of earlier SATs; they will still test on entry, across the range of children that they receive.
In which case, why are Primary schools sacrificing the breadth, if not trying to find way to cover their backs in the accountability stakes?
It all seems very dystopian, with children at the centre. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon; anyone for Huxley?