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 791.


  • rate this

    Comment number 790.

    I really can't see what all the fuss is about. You'd think that the plan was to published a ranked named list of all the kids in the country on the internet! What on earth is wrong with knowing if a child is ahead or behind its peers. Surely that allows educators to take an informed decision on what next to do for that child. I'd have thought this is a critical piece of information.

  • rate this

    Comment number 789.

    One thing to remember though, this won't happen. U turn on E Bacc, fag packets and minimum alcohol prices. All a lot of hot air. This would be a difficult thing to implement. Levels are going in schools as of next year so how can central goverment judge standards in the future? They just like causing panic in schools cos they are bullies

  • rate this

    Comment number 788.

    Sounds like a good idea to motivate kids to improve themselves and prepare them for what things will be like in the world of work. Although the best option would be to bring back grammar schools and the 11+ as the ultimate way of encouraging primary school kids to aim high.

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    I suppose the only value that could come from this is if we get to know just how thick our future politicians are compared to the rest of the population. I awake the leaks of the future with interest.

    We all know you have to be thick (and sociopathic) to go into politics - but this bit of paper will prove it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    killing off the 11 plus


    killing selective admissions


    introduction of national curriculum


    cutting eduction choice


    culling LA infuence


    latest mess

    yes tories

    We were 6 in the last PISA rankings we won't be that good in the next

    new curriculum new exam new demands new measures.

    NO new money NO new Places No new Options

    no Idea

    the DFE IS rubbish

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    Target setting is at the heart of schools, hospitals etc cheating and fiddling with statistics. The more targets they set, the more rubbish is produced, evaluated and then spouted out by ignorant politicians.
    No-one believes these statistics. They are a burden for the professionals who care for our children and the sick, lead to little improvement, and give no useful information about individuals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    I'm just glad I was educated in the 50s and 60s when you were at school to learn skills that would be useful in adult life. We had spelling tests and maths tests in primary school and exams in all subjects twice a year in secondary school. Everyone knew where they stood in every subject. Now it is all touchy feely stuff and mustn't upset anyone. Life's not like that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    Socialised public education is blight on our society, and has existed long enough. Central economic planning doesn't work. And who are those planners managing our kids minds? Why, the same warmongers aiding Syrian cannibals of course - the government.

    Education is too important to be left in the hands of governments, beholden to special interests and the vain popularity contest of the mob.

  • rate this

    Comment number 782.

    As a child I had the 11-plus set before me on returning to my home town. When I asked a friend what the upturned papers were about one of two female teachers beside me burst-out saying 'THAT BOY is awfully STUPID'. At the age of 77 years I can say that I'm a darned sight more intelligent and self-educated than they ever were and the same goes for most of todays tube-sighted teachers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 781.

    Absurd. I sat the old 11-plus in 1946. My father had recently returned from the war a broken man and on the day of the exams I suffered both a hay fever attack and a migraine. For that I was categorised a failure. It took me over ten years to recoup and to follow a career in education to university level.

  • rate this

    Comment number 780.

    What a terrible idea- setting young people on a pathway of feeling inadequate and a failure before they even leave school...many will belive thenselves to be 'thick' not bother at all and drop out of school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 779.

    It is a pointless exercise and does nothing. Primary education has moved away from being a place where learning should be fun and now just part of the education sausage factory. To say that child of 11 has no future surely defeats the object of education.
    Teacher's unions are useless. They rubbish govt plans and initiatives rattle sabres and then just go along with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 778.

    I taught English in inner city secondary schools for 16 years. I am appalled by this latest, crackpot idea from the current government. Sats will give secondary teachers all the information that they need to know. Why on earth would shaming children help them aspire? Surely encouragement & support is what they need. Children already know those brighter than them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 777.

    762 CD - sounds like you have a bad case of victim hood. I don't wish to be patronising but it must be pretty depressing. Everyone wants to 'get even' but I have never been attracted to collective political action, much rather beat elites by outperforming them at their own game. Consequently I am a naturally opposed to 'the collective'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 776.

    What a total waste of time and money! I won't read this report. I won't share this with my children and it will have NO bearing on their lives as far as I am concerned. I don't need, nor want, to know where my two wonderful, unique and, in mine and my wife's eyes, brilliant children rate against hundreds of thousands of others they'll never meet. Clegg, this is an awful plan. DROP IT NOW!

  • rate this

    Comment number 775.

    So their latest answer is to leave a class with assistants while the teacher does more paperwork then they will blame the teacher for falling standards when its political meddling which is the rout cause brilliant still by the time this happens clegg will no longer be in politics

  • rate this

    Comment number 774.

    Schools have suffered from over-interference from politicians for decades. Every sec of state uses the children of this country to glorify themselves or point score against the old regime. Schools have to work with rules they abhor, know are flawed and damage education whilst collating uselss data. Yet another example of pointless, damaging change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 773.

    771 Commrade

    'don't we all remember when the unions were shutting down the mines and mills'

    I do but some people still insist on blaming Fatcha.

    It must really grate with all those ex-union members who were abominably lead by KGB-sponsored union leaders as a UK fifth column to know that if they hadn't been so mislead they and their kids would probably still have a job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 772.

    Great, we're pushing British Kids to achieve at an early age. Are we, as adults, securing them a 'Job to go to' once they've grown up? - NO. It's US ADULTS that need the Edumercation more!


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