Maths Memos

Realising the aims of the National Curriculum in primary assessment


At the 2016 ACME conference, I co-facilitated a workshop with fellow ACME member Dr Sue Gifford on the aims of the National Curriculum in primary assessment. The purpose of the workshop was to consider the influence of assessment in realising the aims of the National Curriculum and to identify ways in which assessment could be improved.

Below, I outline some of the discussion points raised by delegates during the session. You will notice that they highlight issues of concern in both policy and practice.

Fluency, reasoning and problem solving

Delegates were invited to discuss the extent to which fluency, reasoning and problem solving were given due prominence in national publications relating to primary assessment.

There was concern that the 2016 Key Stage 2 tests did not assess the whole of the curriculum, nor the aims of fluency, reasoning and problem solving, in a balanced way. The majority of delegates agreed that future papers should include more questions designed to assess these areas, and that this should be reflected in the allocation of marks.

In June 2016, ACME published the report, Problem solving in mathematics: realising the vision through better assessment which set out actions for policymakers, awarding organisations and the mathematics community to improve the quantity and quality of problem solving in mathematics tests and assessments. The delegates welcomed the ACME report and hoped that policy makers and test designers would take note of it.

Increased transparency

Delegates thought that greater transparency and communication between the test developers and the mathematics teaching community could be a positive influence on achieving the National Curriculum aims. Delegates expressed a desire for greater transparency and greater use of mathematics expertise in the development of official documents, such as 2016 teacher assessment guidance and exemplification, and were keen to understand the process through which such material is published.

Greater analysis

There were suggestions that the testing regime could better support the realisation of the curriculum aims over time by drawing on historical experience, for example, in annual publications to analyse the performance of learners against individual test items.

It was noted that such an analysis could reference the domains covered in the Mathematics Test Framework; including both the parts of the programme of study covered in the test and the cognitive processes associated with the measurement of mathematics.

Finally, delegates wanted to see national analysis on the distribution of the marks across the papers at Key Stage 2.

Anne White is ACME Deputy Chair and a Senior Adviser at Improve Maths. Find out more about ACME's work on assessment and accountability here.

The 2016 ACME conference report can be found here.

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