I've had some queries about whether the Question Level Analysis functionality for KS2 tests will be available in ASP this year: according to the DfE's release timetable, this will be available some time in July 2022.
There was a bit of a kerfuffle last week when someone noticed that the KS1 'pass mark' in the reading and maths tests had been raised, but this turned out to be a red-herring; it was just a normal consequence of the tests being slightly easier this year. This adjustment should mean that the year-on-year standards are maintained at their usual level.
At the beginning of this week OFSTED announced that they would be removing Early Years Foundation Stage data from the IDSR, in light of the reforms to the Early Years Foundation Stage. There will also be no Foundation Stage data in ASP this year.
Thank you to those schools that have so far requested an Early Analysis report, I've now had more than enough requests to keep me busy over the summer. If you haven't yet requested a report but want one please get in touch, but I'm afraid that any new requests from schools will have to wait until September for me to write their report.
If you aren't requesting a report from me but want to get some headline information about your results compared to national, you could of course log into Perspective Lite yourself, or make use of the FFT Early Results Service, which has already opened for KS1, and which will open for KS2 soon. Obviously, these services are only open to schools that have subscribed to them for 2022-23.
As mentioned at the start of the email, the DfE have just published data relating to the January 2022 school census. Here's a few headlines:
And finally, you'd be disappointed if I didn't mention the latest political goings-on. Obviously, I would have liked to have seen the back of the blond buffoon this week, but it's surely only a matter of time before his regime of misrule comes to an end. My current bet is that it will 'all be over by Christmas' for Johnson, but I am aware that this phrase has been used naively before. While Johnson remains in office, we can be pretty sure that this government will continue to lurch from one crisis and controversy to another, incapable of addressing any of the serious issues that need to be tackled. This means we will probably see more delays in the implementation of existing policies and strategies, such as the recent announcement that the national funding formula won't now be fully implemented until at least 2027, and a complete inability to tackle problems such as the impending crisis facing Free School Meals. Meanwhile, the DfE continues to tie itself and schools in knots in order to find a way to hit its targets for the tutoring programme, and their latest plan for 'coasting schools' is being criticised by pretty much everyone that has the energy to read it. I'm afraid that we are probably going to have to put up with this kind of thing until some adults are actually allowed to start running the country.
As is often the case, this time of year is fairly quiet in terms of data 'news' because everyone is busy preparing to administer the statutory tests and assessments. However, just when I thought I wouldn't have anything to talk about in this month's update, Mr Zahawi has come to my rescue by announcing a brand-new addition to the performance table data which will be published in the autumn term. Huzzah!
Yesterday, you should have received an email from our beloved SoS providing details of the plan to publish data relating to individual schools' use of National Tutoring Programme funding. Apart from the fact that the timing of this announcement contravenes the DfE's staff well-being charter (which states that governmental publications relating to schools will only be published during working hours), this plan appears to be a pretty shameless attempt to shift the blame for the failure of the programme onto schools. If you were lucky enough to actually have the day-off yesterday and missed the reaction to this announcement, you can catch up with it all in articles in TES, SchoolsWeek and The Mirror. The announcement also includes the threat to share this information with Ofsted, but I've not seen any response to this from Ofsted themselves and it will be interesting to see whether this new data will be included in the IDSR, the template for which will probably have already been agreed and approved. There could therefore be systemic challenges to including it in the official accountability data used to inform inspections. As ever, we can't be sure whether this announcement will actually become a reality; it's a long time until autumn and it may well turn out to be another distraction that never sees the light of day.
I'm really pleased to have contributed a little bit of the content for, and got a mention in, Parklands A school built on love By: Chris Dyson , which has just been published and is racing up the 'Best Sellers' charts! Make sure you get your copy ordered while stocks last!
Nadim Zahawi is clearly convinced that the pandemic is over, because while many of you have been desperately trying to find enough teachers to cover your classes, the DfE have spent the last week or so publishing a slew of papers, reports and announcements - all as if the situation in schools is completely back to normal.
The 'biggy' was supposed to be the Schools White Paper whose strap-line proudly declares that it will deliver "Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child". However, the more you dig into the detail, the more it becomes apparent that it is an underwhelming victory of style over substance, which puts me in mind of the old American expression: 'you can put lipstick on a pig and call it a lady, but it's still a pig'. A lot has already been written about the White Paper so I won't dwell on it too much, but here's a link to a good summary article from SchoolsWeek.
One of the announcements in the White Paper that attracted the most attention was the implausibly ambitious target for 90 per cent of children by 2030 leaving primary school with the expected standard in reading, writing and maths. This had already been announced a month earlier in the Levelling Up White Paper and I discussed it in last month's update, so I won't bother going over that again in detail. In short, my opinion is that it's unachievable and Zahawi knows it, but he also knows he won't be SoS for Education in 2030, so he doesn't care.
The most depressing thing about all of the announcements and initiatives in the White Paper is that they aren't backed up with enough funding (or in many cases no funding at all), and Zahawi was rightly hauled over the coals when he did the TV rounds on Monday for the fact that school funding is only set to return to 2010 levels by 2024. As ever, there was a huge quantity of distracting 'dead cats' being thrown about, such as the announcement that all schools will be required to be open for 32.5 hours per week, and the classic "if your child falls behind we'll make schools intervene to help them catch up". All of these headlines are designed to play to the prejudices of Daily Mail readers who think that teachers are part-timers who just babysit their kids. I think they're also designed as covering-fire to prevent people from noticing the stuff that the the government is embarrased about, such as the admission of the 'systemic flaws' in their approach to the academisation of schools, that they are unlikley to achieve their target of academising all schools by 2030, and that they are now having to rope in Local Authorities to sort out a lot of the mess they've created, especially around admissions, financial management and inclusion. On page 46 of the SWP they even state "the system that has evolved over the past decade is messy and often confusing" - remind me who has been in power over the last decade!!!
Talking of inclusion, the DfE published a Green Paper covering the SEN review. The paper is titled “Right support, right place, right time”, which is somewhat ironic because the review was originally launched over two years ago in 2019, and there's still no clear timetable for actually implementing any of the proposed changes. There are a lot of proposals that I'm not sufficiently qualified to have a conisdered opinion on, but one that is 'up my street' is the proposal to update the published school league tables with contextual information about schools alongside their results data. The intention of this is to "make it easier to recognise schools that are doing well for children with SEND". In principle this has got to be a good thing, but we will have to wait and see if it actually happens, and whether it makes any sense when it does appear.
One announcement that you may have missed is the publication of statutory assessment dates for 2023 & 2024 which came out on March 21st. This caused a bit of consternation and debate because it confirms the DfE's intention to continue with KS1 assessments despite the fact that the first cohort to undertake the Reception Baseline Assessment will reach the end of KS1 in 2024. The whole point of the RBA was to make the KS1 'baseline' for progress redundant, and a lot of people were therefore expecting KS1 assessments to end after 2023. However, I seem to remember that the DfE did at some point say that there would be one year of 'overlap' to allow them to check and confirm that the RBA data is sufficiently robust to allow the replacement of the old KS1-2 progress measures with Reception-KS2 progress measures. I wouldn't be surprised if they persist with running both assessments for a number of years - after all - it's not much extra work for them, is it?!?
On the 25th March the DfE published an update relating to how they will calculate and use the 2022 KS2 performance measures. This document confirms that there will be 'no adaptations' to the tests and assessments; they will cover the 'full curriulum' and the expected standards will 'remain the same' as in previous years. On that basis I think we can all be fairly confident that attainment will be a lot lower than in 2019. The DfE say they recognise the 'uneven impact on schools of the pandemic' and that they want to use the performance data appropriately; to this effect they have confirmed that there will be no public performance tables. They will however share the data with schools, Trusts, LAs - and crucially - Ofsted. Despite their assurances that this information will be used cautiously and will be presented alongside 'caveats', I'm sure this news will be very worrying for a lot of headteachers.
While it would be reasonable to expect a big dip in national attainment this year, the progress measures (which are a 'relative' measure) should still look broadly similar to previous years. The big question (which was originally going to be answered in 2020) is how they will be calculated, because this is the first cohort to be tested at KS2 who were assessed without levels at KS1 . The DfE state that they have done some work to 'model how we might create prior attainment groups for the 2021/22 measures. This work suggests that we will be able to keep the methodology broadly similar to the one we have used in previous years. We anticipate that the changes to the baseline are likely to have minimal impact on the overall distribution of primary progress scores." I am sceptical about this, because of the unavoidable fact that a very large proportion of children nationally (probably about a third) will have been assessed as achieiving the expected standard in all three subjects at KS1, and all of them will have to be grouped together for prior attainment purposes. The progress measures might look very similar to previous years when they are published, but in my view their reliability and veracity will be even more questionable than in previous years. I'm sure I will have more to say about this in the autumn term!
The next item is only tangentially relevant to school data issues, but I wasn't previously aware of it, and I think it's potentially important. On 24th March an education minister announced the permanent extension of Free School Meal eligibility to children of families who have no access to public funds. This is obviously welcome news, as these will be some of the most vulnerable children and families in society. If I was that minister I would have been very proudly showing off about this, but it is interesting to see how this announcement was made without fanfare, presumably because it won't play well with the Conservatives' "core vote". The other implication of the minimal publicity is that the families concerned might not be aware that they can claim FSM and that schools might not be aware either. It's definitely a good idea for schools to encourage these families to register for FSM as you will then be able to get PP funding, and your official 'Disadvantaged' percentages will also increase. Apparently the DfE will be publishing guidance on how to check and validate eligibility for NRPF families "shortly" - keep an eye out for it!
The last piece of news I want to alert you to is that FFT have now added Persistent Absence figures to their Attendance Tracker system. I know that a lot of you are concerned about the big increase in the numbers of children who will be counted as persistent absentees, but be assured, you're not on your own: the FFT's unofficial 'national' persistent absentee figure for primary schools is currently being reported as 26% (that's about three times as large as the pre-pandemic national figure).
I expect that current world events are making it difficult for many of us to focus a great deal of attention on the parochial goings-on of the English educational system at the moment. If you do have the brain-space for this kind of information, here's a brief summary of what's caught my eye recently.
I suppose I've got to start with yesterday's announcement that Gavin Williamson is to be knighted. When this was first talked about in the press back In January, I assumed it was just another 'dead cat' being thrown onto the table, with the express purpose of getting everybody outraged in order to distract them from the ongoing partygate scandal. This could of course still be part of the strategy, but it does also seem that there is some truth in the accusations that Gavlar is being 'paid off' in order to keep his skeletons firmly in the closet. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is laugh in the face of such blatant venality and corruption; the pithiest take I've seen so far has been from @davidallengreen who quipped that "Williamson's knighthood shows what you get when you allow self-selection of grades".
Moving on from last summer's exam debacles to this summer's; Nick Gibb's successor (Robin Walker if you haven't registered his existence yet) made a rare appearance at a conference yesterday where he defended the decision to go ahead with KS2 SATs in 2022. His main argument was that the data from tests and asessments (which will of course also be collected at Y4, Y2, Y1 and Reception) are vital to inform their assessment of the impact of COVID on children's learning, and assured his audience of headteachers that everything will be fine because league tables aren't being published. I might be able to accept this argument if it wasn't for the fact that they have already announced that performance data will still be shared with the likes of Ofsted. After 20 years of operating in our 'hard accountability' educational environment, the simple fact that data is going to be seen by Ofsted will mean that a headteacher facing inspection in 2022-23 would have to be pretty brave (naive?) to assume that this information wouldn't influence inspectors judgements in any way.
Talking of SATs, we've recently received reminders from the Standards and Testing Agency of some key dates: complete pupil registration by Friday 11 March, submit applications for early opening by Friday 11 March, submit applications for compensatory marks by Monday 25 April, submit applications for additional time by Monday 25 April, submit applications for a timetable variation by Thursday 19 May.
Just before half-term, our 'favourite' former education secretary popped up to remind us that he is still an irritating pimple-on-the-bottom of everyone employed in public service, with the publication of his Levelling-up White Paper. I think Michael Gove might have had a bet with Nadine Dorries to see which of them could produce the most preposterous work of fiction, because one of the many bold claims in the White Paper is that, by 2030 "90% of [primary school] children will achieve the expected standard, and the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst performing areas will have increased by over a third." However, there's no mention within this document's 300 wasted-pages of how this eye-wateringly ambitious target is actually going to be met, and of course, no mention of any additional funding. Again, it's tempting to ignore this as just more BS thrown out to keep us in a permanent state of helpless outrage, and that this is just another one of those distractions that will soon be forgotten. However, the good folks at FFT have tried to take the announcement seriously and have produced a paper which investigates how this logic-defying target might be achieved. It points out that children who will be reaching the end of KS2 in 2030 will be starting reception in 2023, and will be one of the of the cohorts whose early-development is likely to be most-seriously affected by the pandemic. On the plus-side, however, it also points out that almost 90% of pupils currently achieve the expected standard in at least two out of three subjects by the end of KS2, so one potential way of making progress towards this target would be to focus specifically on those pupils who need support to get to the standard in a third subject. FFT have also recently published an investigation into how the attainment gap has changed during the pandemic .
A rare piece of good news was released on Valentine's day, when Ofsted made a small attempt to illict some affection from schools by announcing that it was extending its grace period relating to its expectations around the curriculum, giving headteachers at least another six months to bring their curriculm in line with the framework. However, the day before that, we had Nadim Zahawi participating in another bit of sh*t stirring with his announcement that he was going to order schools to avoid political bias, while a few day's later, on the 18th, the DfE blocked the release of figures relating to the attendance and class cancellation rates for sessions on the National Tutoring Programme, stating that publication of the figures was not in the public interest as they would "cause confusion" amongst schools. It seems that a duty to being even-handed, transparent and neutral is another one of those rules that don't apply to the people that make them.
That's it for now, thank you for having a read. I know that a lot of you will have pupils who have relatives in Eastern Europe and I'm sure that you will have been considering how best to address and manage their immediate fears, as well as the more general worries and emotions that everyone else will be experiencing. Best wishes to you all as you continue to do your utmost to keep our children happy, healthy and safe, and hopefully growing into well-educated, well-informed and humane citizens of the future.