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New Primary School Performance Descriptors

(27 Posts)
SueCowley Thu 27-Nov-14 10:57:41

Hi all, I'm new here. I train teachers, and write books for them, as well as being a parent and helping to run my local preschool.

There's a lot of concern in the educational community at the moment about the new performance descriptors that the gov't is planning to bring in from 2016. There's a gov't consultation about it at the moment, and parents can respond to this, as well as teachers.

I have a very simple question, and would be really grateful for any replies:

Are you aware that, from 2016, you may receive a report at the end of KS1 and KS2 in which your child is described as being 'Below National Standards'?

Thanks in advance for any replies.

PastSellByDate Thu 27-Nov-14 12:52:28

Hi Sue:

No I wasn't aware - but having had a DD1 (now Y7) achieve NC L1 across the board on Teacher Assessment at end of KS1 - it was pretty clear then that 'below expected standard' - and that was meant nationally. It also confirmed what we suspected and had gently tried to signal concern about to the school a few months prior to getting these KS1 SATs results.

I think the issue isn't the score and the 'label' - but what happens next.

Our school went for the 'children develop at their own speed' and made no attempt in Y3 at intervention. We asked if they could recommend workbooks we could use at home (as the school policy was no homework) and were told 'As a policy, we at St. Mediocre don't recommend workbooks).

Those NC L1 scores were upsetting for us as parents (we weren't disappointed in our DD but were seriously concerned) and we took it upon ourselves to do more because it bothered us that we had an otherwise healthy, happy child with no learning issues who was seriously struggling to read, write and add/ subtract.

I don't regret doing more - but I think if a child is labelled as 'below national standard' the onus should be on the school to show they're doing something about it. Somewhere in the gov't targets/ OFSTED performance measures - there really ought to be something which shows that a school took a struggling child and brought them back up to speed (and isn't a convoluted CVA percentage which doesn't really show a lot - how about % achieving below expected standard at KS1 going on to achieve at or above expected standard at KS2? Then parents could actually discern which schools turn struggling pupils around - and which schools give up and leave it to the parents/ tutors).


HPFA Thu 27-Nov-14 14:00:46

Ther's so much information around and any middle-class parent would be aware that a Level 1 in Year 2 for example was below National standards. I personally think you need to know roughly how your child is doing compared to a national standard otherwise how do you know whether they need extra help or not? Alternatively, you might push your child too hard if you weren't aware that Level 3 at Year 2 was above the normal standard.

DrownedGirl Thu 27-Nov-14 15:01:24

Useful summary here:

If the stated aim of the changes was to simplify things for parents, I think this is going to do just the opposite.

And I really do worry about this deficit model, what effect will it have on a child who hasn't yet reached a particular point, to be labelled as 'not met'?

CastlesInTheSand Thu 27-Nov-14 15:21:57

I think it is a very good idea to tell parents their child is behind - if their child is behind.

When my DC were behind the thing that annoyed me the most was school trying to minimise it.

I don't think it helps the child either. Pretending they're doing great when they're not.

SueCowley Thu 27-Nov-14 15:47:15

Thanks very much to everyone who has replied so far.

Could I ask if parents are aware of the level of expectations within the 'National Standard' descriptor? (The Pearson link previously mentioned gives a brief summary of this

Could I also ask how parents would feel about children with SEND (special ed. needs and disabilities) being assessed using these descriptors?

CastlesInTheSand Thu 27-Nov-14 15:56:57

My DC were behind because of SEN. Doesn't mean I wanted it sugar coated. It was even more important they were measured against the national standards. Because it was very very easy for school to have low expectations of them. And I didn't want that.

Emstheword Thu 27-Nov-14 16:12:35

I agree that a straight description is welcome, but really needs to be warned about early, with a plan of action attached. It's no good saying a child is below national standards and not showing patents what they and the school can do to improve things.

redskybynight Thu 27-Nov-14 16:38:12

Yes, I was aware and my main concern is that the descriptors are so broad that they are unhelpful. I suspect I would be aware already if my child was behind, what I would actually like to know is if they are less behind that the previous year (so still making progress relative to where they are).

meglet Thu 27-Nov-14 16:47:18

I'm peeved their scrapping levels. The levels already tell you how your child is doing.

And below could mean a sub level or a whole level below couldn't they confused.

capsium Thu 27-Nov-14 16:47:31

Also, I would want to know whether the standards are based on national average attainment scores for previous years or whether they are just standards set by the government.

meglet Thu 27-Nov-14 16:50:53


AsBrightAsAJewel Thu 27-Nov-14 19:16:19

Published by Department for Education

ReallyTired Thu 27-Nov-14 21:06:31

Surely the whole point of scrapping levels was to give schools the freedom to set up assessment systems as they see fit. Its a brave new world. How do you make reporting of progress a way of helping the child rather than a stick to beat them with?

In my LEA children will be described as emerging (below national standards), expected, exceeding or mastering (if they are really gifted). The school will still use p-scales for children with severe SEN. Academies and other LEAs may well take different decisions.

Why do you think its a bad thing if parents are told that their children is below the expected standard for their age. Perhaps the big disadvantage of the new system is that its not alway clear quite how far below expected standards a child might be. If my child was below expected standards I would want some measure of how bad the problem is. Ie. should they be in special school? Do they just need a little bit more like because they are a summer born?

SueCowley Thu 27-Nov-14 21:13:47

Thanks so much to everyone for their responses.

This blog post by a teacher friend of mine explains the concerns as well as I ever could:

nilbyname Thu 27-Nov-14 21:15:20

I think the descriptors, infact any descriptors are mostly fine as long as they are evidence based on a breath and depth of material.

So, if the school is thorough in its
Evidence capturing
Self assessment for kids/staff and time for reflection and ReAlLY develop those meta-cognition skills
Then, then I would trust the monitoring. So it's almost as though the descriptors and monitoring is only a small component of a much larger and complex picture.

GoogleyEyes Thu 27-Nov-14 21:16:29

Sue Your OP implies this is a bad thing. Actually, it's helpful. The worst thing would be to think your child was doing fine when they're not, and so failing to take any action. My concern is more about the new descriptors making it clear whether a child is slightly or very behind (or, indeed, ahead). That is what you and the school need to know, in order to take sensible actions.

OddBoots Thu 27-Nov-14 21:29:28

If that is all the report says then that would be a bad thing as it's too stark and doesn't give context. If it is a line of the report in among everything else then I think that would be a good thing, it's useful information and as others have said it may stop a possible culture of low expectations.

ReallyTired Fri 28-Nov-14 09:51:48


I read your blog with interest. I actually think describing a child as "mastering" is as damaging as describling them as below national expectations. Neither child or their parents have any idea of what their next steps are.

Swimming lessons have changed a lot since your children were young. I believe that the way that swimming teachers do/ report assessment at our local sports centre is incredibly effective. Each child is in a stage and there are about ten skills that they have to master. The teachers all have ipad minis and record whether a child has managed a particular skill in a lesson. A parent can look up on line whether a child hasn't yet been taught the skills, needs practice, inconsistant or consistant with a particular skill. The nice thing is that its clear to me what my daughter needs to work on. To be honest I don't need to know whether a five year old working towards ASA stage 3 is below or above national average.

I wish that my daughter's school could have a similar system to the local sports centre.

capsium Fri 28-Nov-14 10:13:31


To be honest I don't need to know whether a five year old working towards ASA stage 3 is below or above national average.

Thing is, as a parent, you do need to know this, with regards to your child's education, if your child has any SEN. You need to know the overall severity, with regards to progression, in terms of their SEN. This will, very directly, be related to any funding they might receive and decisions over which school is the most suitable.

ReallyTired Fri 28-Nov-14 10:25:59


I take your point. I think that knowing what your child can or can't do is more useful than knowing if he is in the bottom 50% or 10%. The new system labels a large number of normal (perhaps slightly below average) children as emerging. The child who is in the bottom 20% has the same label as the child in the bottom 1%. My LEA is keeping p-scales for children with severe SEN.

Knowing a child's class position does not help a parent.

capsium Fri 28-Nov-14 11:02:52

But it could make a difference in terms of school performance. If for example most of the class were labelled as 'below average' or 'emerging', then questions should be asked concerning whether the teaching was actually meeting the needs of the demographic. SENs might not actually be particularly special, or due to any inherent difficulties the child has, IYSWIM, they could be due to context.

GoogleyEyes Fri 28-Nov-14 11:03:19

Really I like your analogy (and in fact, our local leisure centre does it too, and it's fab) but what it doesn't tell you is whether your child (for example) has been in Stage 3 for two years but all the others have moved on after six months. This matters because it may explain why they're getting discouraged, or bored of the repetition etc.

This is obviously less crucial for swimming lessons than for school, which is why I think schools should do a mixture of the descriptive 'done x, working on y, next step will be z' and a report which is clear about where your child is compared to national expected levels.

capsium Fri 28-Nov-14 11:07:22

I agree though 'emerging' is not very informative.

ReallyTired Fri 28-Nov-14 12:07:35

"Really I like your analogy (and in fact, our local leisure centre does it too, and it's fab) but what it doesn't tell you is whether your child (for example) has been in Stage 3 for two years but all the others have moved on after six months. This matters because it may explain why they're getting discouraged, or bored of the repetition etc. "

Our sports centre software system does show how long a child has been in a particular class. However no action is taken if a child spends years and years in a particular stage at our sports centre. I suppose in an ideal world such a child would have a few individual lessons, but ofcourse the parents would have to pay for the extra attention. I hope that in a school it would be picked up that a child has made zero progress for two years.

I feel that schools have to decide what they hope to achieve by reporting information. I don't want to be what I already know. I want to be told how to help my child. I like knowing the criteria for needed for best progress. Ie. behaviour inside and outside the classroom as well as whether my daughter has mastered her phonics. If I had my way the school would do a gentler version of assertive mentoring. (Ie. I do not want my five year old to be told to her face that her level of progress is unsatisfactory, but I would like to know as a parent.)

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