Primary pupils in England could be ranked nationally at 11


Nick Clegg: "This is not a return to a name and shame public league table"

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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".

'Secondary ready'

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.


There is a four-letter word that seems to dominate primary school policy. Data.

And there is going to be even more of it if the latest proposals for measuring pupil performance in England are implemented.

Parents would be told where their children fit into 10 ability bands, measured against a yardstick of the rest of the national year group.

Of course parents already get children's Sats results. If they get a stellar Level 6 they're in the top 1%. Any Level 5 puts them into the top 25%.

But how much more detail do parents really want? And having just about got to grips with levels do they really want them to be scrapped and new benchmarks introduced?

And more particularly how would parents feel about rankings if their child is in the bottom rungs? Would this demoralise or motivate children to improve? Is primary school in danger of turning into a spreadsheet?

There are big underlying questions here.

If pupil information is available, why shouldn't parents have it too? And wouldn't more detailed performance measures stop pupils being left behind? Or will the extra information polarise schools even further, creating a superleague of those with the most pupils in the top 10%?

Statistical targets have a habit of taking on a life of their own.

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%.

Extra funding

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.

How do parents rate the plan to rank primary pupils?

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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Why not start assessing kids the moment they emerge from the womb?

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    "Total Mass Retain
    Perhaps you can enlighten us as to how many accountants and tax consultants have been "struck off"? Indeed, are there objective professional standards they have to meet once practicing and a process for holding them to account for failure to uphold them?"

    The answers are "lots" and "yes"

    See a small sample below

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Lets face it - introducing ranking is not supposed to raise the childrens standards in the short term - its supposed to raise the teaching standards which will cascade down to the children. But it seems teachers want to make a human soup of equal ranked people to create a society where Monet and Copin would have faded into the background of a grey homogenous state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    @165. Chris
    "...If there'd been more testing when they were at school they may have had more help.
    FAIL. Poor grammar in the second sentence, who are what is the word "they" referring to?


    FAIL!: "who are what is the word "they" referring to?" is hardly the proper English wot Shakespeare wrote now, is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    What slippery Nick says it isn't - it is - because parents and kids will use the info to lace PGA & playgound gossip. We're obsessed with testing and league tables and clamour for a more elitist school system - that's what Gove means by rigourous. This is job-creation for lame duck David Laws with a consultation to babysit and invent answers for.
    [cue a contradictory comment from Gove ]

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    203. Plant_Smith
    Could this also be a symptom of many businesses no longer having the desire to train people in house, how many careers did you use to be able to get after leaving at GCSE that now require degree+ quals? If businesses want highly skilled workers they also have to foot the bill in house, schooling should provide the basics not the end product.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Einstein was thought to be backward when he was a young school pupil. For consideration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    The threshold for the tests would be that children were "secondary ready"

    And where does that boundary lie? Currently, it is set at Level 4, which is determined by checking a students' performance against very well defined criteria. If, in the future, every child in the country exceeds this level (unlikely), then half of them will be deemed to have failed? Are they then "not ready for secondary"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    Kids of that age need to enjoy learning! Being told your thick will be the quickest way to demotivate a lot of children.

    Terrible idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    We lead the world in collecting huge amounts of data on pupils. Instead of using the evidence to ensure students enjoy and achieve in a meaningful way the MPs continue to spout guff.

    there is no 11 plus selection, this testing achieves absolutely nothing for the pupil.

    the pupil premium does not address pupil disengagement.

    it's the old johnny is good at maths he should go to maths camp guff

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    187. Sixp
    I do not think you get what I mean. Private schools are turning out fantastically well educated, well rounded children. Fact.
    The state school model should be the same. I believe in investing in our, and our childrens, future and think the methods employed in the Private system, including class sizes, needs to be put into place by whatever government we have or get.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    I don't see the need for this at all. As I think everyone can attest, SATs in year 6 are nothing like GCSEs or A levels! In their teenage years, children will be changing along with their attitudes. I think 11 is just far too early to make an accurate judgement. I had hardworking classmates at 11 that got lazy at 14/15 and vice versa.

  • Comment number 219.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    I'm glad that i'm not a kid growing up now a days - let them be young, play and enjoy the blissful innocence of being young with very little responsibilities.

    They've got their whole lives to be judged by people and systems!

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    With all these changes it is when you appreciate paying for a private education, our children have been taught an extensive curriculum harking back to the good old days of science, maths, languages etc. The 6 year old knows his tables up to 12x and with class sizes below 15 you get results. To many schools chasing league table rankings, with teachers getting more irrelevant work put on them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    It seems that a lot of people on the forum consider themselves educational experts and masters of pedagogy ... you are not :\

    Children develop at different ages, learn through different ways and show different talents, potential and abilities.

    It is wrong that they should labelled at such an early age.

    Nothing wrong with motivating and rewarding - just not this way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    yes we will call the test the 11 plus and those that pass will get the opportunity to go to grammar school and the rest can go to the local comprehensive or be sold into government sanctioned servitude until they die .

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    In my experience as a father of three and a parent governor at a primary school, a key issue is to do with how the child or pupil performs when they enter the school as much as when they leave the school. It's a game of catch-up due to poor parental support. Will the schools be able to group children at entry and rate the parenting using similar percentiles? I very much doubt it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    I know, let's have a national standard exam at age 11 and use that to dertermine which school they should go to...what do you think?

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    @Matt 98
    We already have national curriculum levels.


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