Some reflections on the Pre-Key Stage Standards

29 Apr 2019

In advance of our ‘Moderation Muddle’ conference on 7th June, Tracy Edwards reflects on the Pre-Key Stage Standards which schools will be reporting on this year.

This term, schools will be using the finalised pre-Key stage standards, for those pupils who are working above P-Levels 1-4, yet below age expectations.  This statutory requirement follows the publication of the Rochford Review in 2016, which made a series of recommendations for the assessment of these pupils.  These recommendations included the removal of the statutory requirement to report on end-of-key stage progress using the ‘P-Level’ framework, which had previously held a dominant role in accountability processes relating to pupils with SEND.

In the diagram below, a summary of assessment for lower attaining pupils “post-Rochford” is outlined.

Muddle Diagram


The pre-Key stage standards have been devised as an alternative to P-Levels, rather than a replacement of them.  The main principles outlined in the ‘Guidance for teachers’ accompanying the published standards (at both KS1 and KS2) emphasise that they are a summative, rather than formative assessment tool.  This means that that they are for the purposes of reporting at the end of Year 2 and Year 6.  They are not intended to be broken down into small steps or mould the curriculum at all.  Schools are not required to “show” year-on-year progress between the standards, or within them.  Formative assessment instead needs to be a more authentic evaluation of pupil progress in relation to the aims of a curriculum, which would be highly personalised and could likely reflect the implementation of an Educational, Health and Care Plan. The Pre-Key stage standards also address three areas: Reading, Writing and Mathematics.  They do not claim to “cover” the varied and holistic dimension to high quality SEND provision.

The image below places a P-Level assessment grid designed for teacher ongoing use, with the first 2 pre-key stage standards, which are designed for more occasional use.

Muddle Diagram 2

There is lots of replication of the pre-key stage 1 standards in the key stage 2 standards.  In fact, Standards 1-4 are identical.  It would therefore be tempting to “use” the standards as P-Levels have been used, and set expectations for pupils to continually “move up” them.  Standards 1 and 2 in particular however, are highly developmental in nature, and it is possible for pupils to remain within them for some time, and still make outstanding progress.  Equally, there will be pupils at Key Stage 2, who may be secure with some aspects of Standards 4-6, yet struggle with aspects of Standards 3.  With this, one fundamental difference with the pre-key stage standards is that (unlike the P-Levels) teachers are not required to make a “best fit” judgement.  To achieve a standard, a pupil has to be secure with all elements of it, rather than be more suited to a particular standard, to the ones above and below.  With all of this in mind, using the standards in the same way as P-Levels were used, with progression grids and “target standards” could be dangerous and divert professional attention away from the priorities which are the most important.

Rather than base evaluations entirely on the pre-key stage standards, schools need to be creative when assessing lower attaining pupils, and consider approaches which enable them to “improve rather than prove”.  There may also be value in “dipping into” the standards to assess secondary aged pupils, and to use them in ways that are useful, whilst not being statutory.   They could inform the setting of personal learning intentions for example, particularly for pupils with a diagnosis of ‘Moderate Learning Difficulties’ that are tracked using tools such as the ‘Mapping and Assessing Pupil Progress’ tool, from the Dales School in Yorkshire.

Over this term, up-and-down the country, across local authorities, there will be moderation meetings based on this first set of teacher judgements using the finalised pre-key stage standards.  These will be valuable, and hopefully the standards are sufficiently broad to facilitate rich discussions about learning, rather than bureaucratic ones about whether or not a box can be ticked.  Alongside this more formal moderation of the pre-key stage standards, there is a greater need for peer review processes between schools, to ensure that more personalised assessment systems (whilst not necessarily consistent with those used in other schools) maintain robustness and rigour.

The DfE have published a set of exemplification materials to support assessment using the pre-Key Stage standards.  The exemplification materials for English language comprehension and reading can be accessed here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/784068/Pre-key_stage_exemplification_-_English_language_comprehension_and_reading.pdf

There will be an opportunity to interact with the Pre-Key Stage standards at our ‘Moderation Muddle’ Conference on 7th June.  This event will also look at holistic assessment, and ways in which benchmarking and quality assurance can be withheld amidst an ethos of personalised learning.  Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-moderation-muddle-tickets-47709074125




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