Primary pupils in England could be ranked nationally at 11
- 17 July 2013
- From the section Education & Family
Primary school pupils in England could be ranked directly against their peers across the country, under government plans to change performance measures.
Pupils aged 11 would be ranked in 10% ability bands and parents told where their children are placed.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "For children to achieve their potential, we need to raise the bar."
But head teachers' leaders described the plans, which could come in 2016, as "disappointing and destructive".
Labour's shadow school secretary Stephen Twigg said it was "policy making on the hoof".
As parents across the country have been receiving their children's Sats results, Mr Clegg and Schools Minister David Laws have launched a consultation on plans to overhaul England's primary school targets.
This would mean significant changes to how primary schools are measured and their pupils' achievements shown to parents.
Mr Clegg dismissed head teachers' fears: "We are not going to publish a name and shame league table," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
"Children are already tested at primary school. We are saying go with the grain of that system."
Mr Clegg said the intention is to show parents how children are doing in relation to their peers and to make sure that pupils are ready when they start secondary school.
"I make no apology for having high ambitions for our pupils. But for children to achieve their potential we need to raise the bar - in terms of tests, pass marks and minimum standards. I am confident that primary schools and their pupils will meet that challenge," he said.
Under the plans, pupil's national curriculum test results (known as Sats) would be divided into bands of 10%, and parents and schools would be able to see where their children were placed on a national scale.
There are also plans for baseline tests against which to measure progress, although it has yet to be decided whether this should be at age of five or seven.
There would be a tougher minimum level of achievement for schools - the so-called "floor-standard" - below which an Ofsted inspection would be triggered.
The current minimum is 60% of pupils achieving the expected level at Sats tests for English and maths. This would be replaced with an 85% minimum - but the current levels are being scrapped, so this would be 85% based on an assessment that has still to be decided.
The threshold for the tests would be that children were "secondary ready" in maths, reading, spelling, punctuation and grammar and teachers' assessments of writing.
Under the current levels, 11 year olds who achieve a Level 5a are approximately in the top 10%, children at Level 5c and above are in the top 25%. Children at Level 3 and below are in the bottom 25%.
The government says that the levels currently used to measure progress, including the Level 4 used as the benchmark for Sats tests, are "unambitious and too broad".
Mr Laws told the House of Commons that the levels used by schools had little meaning to most parents.
The minimum standard for schools would also take into account pupils' progress as well as their raw test results.
Under the proposals, schools would be able to develop their own way of measuring how well pupils were progressing and their ability would then be assessed with tests for all 11-year-olds in English and maths and a sample of pupils for science.
There will be extra funding for poorer pupils with a rise in the level of pupil premiums, from £900 this year to £1,300 in 2014-15.
Labour's Stephen Twigg said it was "putting the cart before the horse" to announce a threshold of 85% before the assessment had been decided.
He also warned of "confusing signals" when the government was scrapping the levels used to measure progress at the same time as calling for a closer attention to progress.
A spokesman for the National Association of Head Teachers said "labelling an 11-year-old as a failure is totally unacceptable".
"The vast majority of teachers are unhappy with the need to rank students," said the union's leader Russell Hobby.
It would be wrong to "pigeonhole" children on the basis of such tests, he said.
Mr Hobby welcomed the greater recognition of pupil progress, but warned that the changes to measuring schools were built on "foundations of sand".
"All the 'rigour' in the world won't matter if you're rigorous about the wrong things," he said.
But head teacher Steve Busby told BBC Breakfast the ranking system could be helpful.
"The current assessment system within school is flawed in my opinion." He said the Level 4 band was too broad and that parents needed a more accurate picture.
Brian Lightman, head of the ASCL heads' union, agreed there was a need for a more accurate testing system at the end of primary school, because secondary schools currently had to re-test their new intakes.
However, he was unconvinced by the idea of ranking 11-year-olds.
"I worry what will happen to those children who have tried hard yet are told that they are in one of the bottom bands. Children at that age mature differently and their confidence can be easily damaged," he said.
NUT leader Christine Blower rejected the idea that primary schools should be measured in terms of the idea of pupils being "secondary ready", insisting the term would be "seen as offensive and insulting to so many hard-working teachers in the primary phase".
"Education, from the earliest years, is not a conveyor belt to the end of secondary school," she said.