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 1071.

    Hey, I've just got what being on S Alert means _ROTFLOL :))
    Hilarious. I'll remember that one and use it if you permit please ????
    Yes, it's interesting to bring Bastiat into the topic of 11 year old school children isn't it ??And all that other stuff. You gotta laugh or you'd have to ..cry :)
    Thx again for the great one-liner, which I will use in future and try to pass around to others (many!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1070.

    1068-----agreed: that's how it certainly reads.
    But please don't forget that this is someone who wants there to be no Dept of Education, for parents to control all aspects of education system and who thinks Frederic Bastiat is someone we should listen to, even tho he's a nobody who spouted about economics in the early 1800s !!!
    You can't take any of it seriously ,michellegrand :)))))))))

  • rate this

    Comment number 1069.

    1066. Unfortunately there is absolutely no real evidence to support your assertions. Some will quote certain OECD tables whose architects go out of their way to say they cannot be used to prove any such thing. Other comparisons place our system higher. One thing is certain. The system in Finland which appears to be the most successful in Europe has nothing in common with these proposals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1068.

    `1061 - I'm sorry but that's how your comment read to me.

    I think 11 is too late to find out if a child can read and write well enough to cope with secondary school. See too my comments about special needs children; 95% of those at Treloar (secondary for severely handicapped) have to go to court to be funded

  • rate this

    Comment number 1067.

    Re 1060------ I AGREE STRONGLY WITH YOUR COMMENTS. Posting at 1062 reinforces your comment.
    Fair debate is what is needed-----not sour grapes !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1066.

    There seems to be a majority of opinion on these posts saying ' this will marginalise/demoralise less able students'.

    What about the high potential achievers? The system (though not perfect) when my generation did 11+ gave the most able a chance to escape previously imposed boundaries, and go on to succeed.

    It wasn't perfect - but better than the current race to to equality (bottom).

  • rate this

    Comment number 1065.

    I see we're still on "S-Alert" :((((
    Now we're rambling about collectivists-----what do they collect ?
    Do they collect anything remoterly to do with the topic of whether or not to stream kids at age 11 or some other age ? Probably not ....................
    Long live the 11+. Down with Leftie Teachers. Let's have a Fiat about it. Xx

  • rate this

    Comment number 1064.

    Isn't this already done with teacher asssessment?
    End of Key Stage 2 Maths - Level 6 =1, Level 5a=2, Level 5b=3, Level 5c=4 etc

  • Comment number 1063.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1062.

    372. Slave to the System - I am not a number

    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

    Actually its on the web. See the or the DoE site.
    its pretty straightforward.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1061.

    I didn't apportion blame to only 1 party. Both parties are equally responsible for this mess in education, and elsewhere. Indeed, both parties are essentially identical when you compare them. They are both collectivists, beholden to their special interests, and those interests don't include you or your child's education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1060.

    @1059 alexicon
    Oh come that the best you can do/offer. If I said something you disagree with, give your opinion. Or did I just hurt your 'feelings'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1059.

    1048. beammeup

    After our children receive an education, they leave this system and enter another one called 'reality'.

    I read some of your posts... it seems you must have stayed in education as you certainly have no contact with reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1058.

    Ratings up, ratings down. Can easily see what upsets, hits a nerve/home. Like I said reality...some of you "adults' find it difficult. Your bubble wrapped children will have a challenge won't they!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1057.

    A child could sit an exam today and be deemed a success in any particular subject. They then could sit a similar exam the following week and be deemed a failure. Testing is a very blunt way of assessing a child's ability. This is one of the reasons we decided to home educate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1056.

    This week, I've never been more grateful that education and health are devolved responsibilities in Scotland.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1055.

    So many parents have it in their mind that the school system 'brings up their child'. Sorry, no, that is not the case ''you are responsible"...get a grip!! Turn off the tv and talk to your child. Oh, and use the correct vernacular.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1054.

    The assistance needed is often not given - my nephew, at 11 unable to cope with words with 4 letters, was only given support after the tory council was taken to the high court. He's at university now and doing well. Councils don't have masses of spare cash. Will the free schools spend the time and money or like private hospitals dump the expensive ones back?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1053.

    My Wife is a Teacher & my Sister is a Teacher, one Teaches in a Private School & the other in a State School. Both agree that going back to a tried & failed similar thing to the 11+ is just plain stupidity.
    Einstein said the definition of stupidity is to keep on performing the same experiment again & again expecting a different result?. The Govt prove Einstein correct.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1052.

    Sounds like a new way to pressure kids into submitting to authority and it's flawed measures of success. This is going to be used as a tool to make school pupils feel bad about themselves but even worse than it is now. It will be used to justify all sorts of things when really it's just an overcomplicated mess designed to obfuscate the educational system even further. Grades don't mean anything.


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