Primary assessment

ATL believes it's time for the government to go back to the drawing board on primary assessment as a whole.

KS1 & KS2 SATs

A litany of errors around the implementation of the KS1 and KS2 SATs in 2016 has done nothing to salve the profession's longstanding concerns over the failed baseline policy. ATL believes that it's time for the government to go back to the drawing board on primary assessment as a whole.

You can find out more about KS1 and KS2 SATs here.

Baseline assessment

The use of the baseline for accountability progress measure was abandoned when it emerged that the three chosen schemes were not sufficiently comparable.

Baseline assessment was part of a new primary school accountability system that sought to establish "value added" from age 4 to 11.

ATL strongly advise our members not to undertake reception baseline assessment using these commercial assessment products. We believe that Primary schools already have effective on entry assessments that support the teaching and learning of these young children. 

ATL and NUT jointly commissioned research into the implementation of the baseline assessment in September 2015. This research was undertaken by Dr Alice Bradbury and Dr Guy Roberts-Holmes of the Institute of Education, UCL.

You can find out more about Baseline Assessment on the Better Without Baseline website and read more about the research in our press release

Blogs on Assessment

You've been speaking out on baseline. The NEU would make your voice stronger

In the next few weeks we expect the Government to publish the consultation on assessment in primary schools that Justine Greening promised back in October.
Broken pencil and test sheet

PISA – what’s the point?

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-olds. But are the results meaningful?

A happy New Year for primary assessment?

This time twelve months ago, then Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan decided to mark the New Year by announcing a new primary assessment: the multiplication check.

Assessment without Levels

ATL believes that this report is one of the most important (and most useful) reports to come out of government for a long time. It focuses primarily on in-school assessments whether formative (which enables teachers to check pupils' understanding in order to support and extend their learning), or summative (which checks what pupils have learned over the course of a unit or period). It is well worth reading the entire report, but if your time is short, here are the highlights.

Why remove levels?

The report explains why it was right to remove levels from the new national curriculum:

  • Levels were meant to be used to assess against the whole programme of study, but were divided into sub-levels and often used to assess every piece of work.
  • Teachers focused on getting pupils to the next level instead of ensuring their learning was secure, and progress came to mean moving up to more difficult work instead of deepening or broadening understanding.
  • Pupils could achieve a level even though they had big gaps in their understanding – teachers interpreted levels differently so it was hard to tell what pupils really knew.
  • Teachers planned lessons and assessments around making sure pupils reached the levels, rather than identifying strengths or gaps in what pupils knew and understood.
  • Parents and pupils didn't really understand what it meant to be at a particular level, but used them to compare with each other.
  • The Commission states very clearly that new in school assessment systems should not simply recreate the old system or function as levels by another name. They also caution against buying in commercial assessment products that would function in this way.

You can find out more about assessment without levels here.


All Year 1 teachers in English primary schools conduct a "phonics screening check" on all children aged 5 and 6. This statutory assessment usually takes place in June each year. The phonics test comprised a list of 40 words that children read one-to-one with a teacher. The list was a combination of both real and pseudo-words (such as 'Osk' and 'Snemp') to allow the assessment to focus purely on decoding using phonics. 

Using phonics and encouraging children to decode unfamiliar words plays a significant role in the teaching of reading. However, as the former Children's Laureate Michael Rosen and others have argued "doing synthetic phonics can only ever be a contributory factor in the process of how we 'learn to read'. Authoritative studies have shown the superiority of a balanced approach which includes not only phonic decoding and sight recognition of words which are not phonically regular but also, and of great importance, the syntactical and semantic clues which help children to attach meaning to the symbols put before them.

At worst the danger of such a 'high stakes' test is likely to place too great an emphasis on decoding skills at the expense of other reading skills such as enjoyment, comprehension and wider reading.

You can find out more about phonics here.