The academic achievements of primary-aged children could be put into league tables, if ministers’ plans get through.
Each child will be put into an ability band – deciles – based on their test results. Parents would discover where in these deciles their children were – for example, in the top or bottom 10 per cent – for each subject.
“Baseline” testing will start at five instead of seven, the current testing age.
Schools will be given new, higher targets and will face instant Ofsted inspections if 85% of their pupils fail to achieve these standards.
Nick Clegg says that the exams taken at age 11 would be dramatically “toughed up” in 2016. He said the reforms were needed to make sure all pupils are “secondary ready” at the end of primary school. He said: “Every primary school should strive to make its pupils ready for secondary school by the time they leave.
“All the evidence shows that if you start behind, you stay behind. A better start at secondary school is a better start in life.”
The government says these measures will help prepare children better for secondary school.
Teaching unions have spoken out against the changes.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “The Government needs to be cautious about potential unintended consequences arising from a number of the proposals it has announced today.
“School level assessments are fine in principle but in the context of current high stakes accountability, with no framework for support or provision of resources, the outcome is likely be a bureaucratic nightmare for teachers which could undermine high standards.”
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said: “The Government has a fondness for testing young children in the belief that the tests create reliable measures of performance. They don’t. And, by relying only on what can be measured, they risk missing what matters. There is far more to being ‘secondary ready’ than a score on an hour’s test. A teacher’s judgment, built up over four years, has much to contribute.”
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Given that approximately 20% of children have some form of special needs, this new target will doom many of them to ‘failure’.
“Considering that half of all secondary schools are now academy status, often through coercion or force, an increase in floor targets for the primary sector is surely nothing more than a further land-grab for the academies programme.”
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said: “The problems with the tests at the end of primary school are well documented. Most secondary schools re-test pupils at the start of year 7 because they don’t trust the accuracy of data they have to work with. A fairer, more accurate way of measuring pupils’ ability at the end of primary school is certainly needed. I am not convinced that ranking 11-year-olds will help to raise standards. There are better ways of making it clear to parents and children what they should be achieving at the end of primary school.
“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. It could make secondary teachers’ job in building self-esteem and confidence even more difficult.”
Nick Clegg announced the tougher tests at the same time as unveiling that the pupil premium for disadvantaged primary school children will increase from £900 to £1300 next year. This will be for those in care or those who have had a free school meal in the past six years.