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 391.

    I strongly suggest taking responsibilty for education away from Politicians, period! Teachers are best placed to teach, not stupid Politicians who use educational matters as a weapon against each other. Don't believe me? Take a look at Prime Ministers Questions & then consider whether it is appropriate, or even healthy for Political morons to make decisions about the education of our children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    can we,the public,rank our MPs please?
    Every year?
    Could we put some under "special observation"or move them out altogether if we don't think theyre doing well enough,or are being destructive?

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    One point I would like to raise - what about Primary schools that don't push pupils to attend the higher level papers? When I was 11 the highest paper all pupils were entered into were the level 4 papers. I came away with 2 level 4s and a level 3.

    Apparently that level 3 would put me in the bottom 25% yet I came away with a B grade at GCSE level in that same subject with no additional emphasis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    Government already invested in pupil premium, specifically to help underprivillaged to achieve better at EARLY education stages, this testing will help measure the competance of schools using it

    Are schools just spending it, or are they actually helping pupils

    I have personal experience of VERY poor local schools in Doncaster where English children are minority & get NO HELP, just REJECTION

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    When will Governments stop interfering"

    When the UK public stop voting them into power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    For some kids who are already doing well and have a competitive attitude it will be good for them, while for others who are struggling at the bottom it will be very bad. Speaking as a parent of kids in the first group, I still think this is a bad idea. Kids, like adults, have bad days, and SATS only give a very rough indication of ability, nothing more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    @322 Big John the Red
    'Last year the chance of someone born in October becoming an Oxbridge undergraduate was more than 30% higher than for someone born in July.'

    Older children in a school year generally achieving better has been well known for decades - start the school year at Easter and it would be the summer birthdays who appear in your data for Oxbridge entry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    I've just been watching Prime Ministers Question Time.

    It is blindingly obvious that the Public School Oxbridge system of Education is in urgent need of revision.

    I have seen better behaved Chimps Tea Parties.

    The two Party Leaders set the tone & both behave considerably better at other Venues.

    Or go the other way put them in clowns suits and make a show of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.


    It is all relative – it doesn’t matter – each child IS individual

    That is what I am getting at

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    Aye, maybe with more testing the morons we have in power right now would be doing something a little less demanding & important.
    I have had 2 or 3 clever friends in my time. I enjoyed being in their company, their wit and sense of humor bought me great joy. I hope they go on to do great things rather than think it is uncool & want to be 'gangsta'. Mediocrity is the killer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    What a pointless and demeaning scheme! Why do people feel the need to force rank children from best to worst - I mean you wouldn't dream of ranking your own children... against any scale! Everyone needs to accept that every child is different and that's a very good thing. Anyway how can one silly written test possibly examine all the infinite skills, knowledge and abilities all children possess?

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    Parents saying they don't know where their children rank? Schools share children's levels in subjects and share these with parents at parents evening, and explain what they mean. Reports also state whether the child is working at the national level expected, or if above or below in English, Maths and Science.

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    Herd based measuring systems for the known failure system for education, namely schools, as we have them for herds not individuals. Ability exists that does not fit such measures. All schools should be closed & the budget split between every child. Then let parents direct individualised education fit for this age, & their child's unique abilities. Now we can, others are, let's not be last again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    43. Rainbow Zenned

    To quote ‏@LeilaGhaddab on twitter this morning:

    Dear #Clegg,
    There will always be a bottom 10%, no matter how good schools are.That's how maths works.
    ... and hopefully, once identified, these pupils can receive appropriate help. That's how common sense works?

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    "361. stan lee
    After 13 years of Nu:Labour excepting the failure of certain groups of children, this change is much welcomed as a Parent and Teacher."

    You do mean "accepting" not "excepting" - don't you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    This has got to be the most stupid output from such an evolved and expensive body of politcians turned MP's /turned experts into educationalist. To be a sucess we should a legue table for allMP's and those who wangle themselevs into government - this way we will know with a bit more confidence who to believe/ or just ignore as chancer's

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    Politicians are stupid. If only they focussed more on the teachers education rather than the pupils education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    WHY OH WHY..!!!!
    When are we ever going to stop this ridiculous faffing about and recognize that NOT EVERYONE IS AN ACADEMIC.
    11 year old's are too young for this - how on earth can we expect those who 'underachieve' (I hate that term) to cope with that label - and at that age it is seen as a label, believe me!
    Is this inept Government hell bent on destroying our children's confidence..?

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    Can you imagine what it will be like for the child who is told they are the lowest ranked in the country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    As a parent of 3 school aged kids and reasonably intelligent. I find the current assessment very confusing. Is 3b better than 4a etc ?

    There is also nothing to tell me whether they are progressing and if they have met thier targets.

    Having a national comparison would help but please keep the marking structure simple. Using Red Amber Green is a good idea.


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