Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME)

Assessment and accountability

The Government has made significant reforms to assessment and accountability at early years,  primary, secondary and 16-19 learners.

Baseline assessment


ACME has questioned the usefulness of a baseline assessment in mathematics, whether at Key Stage 1 or reception.The Committee has highlighted issues with new baseline assessments for reception, such as:

  • Very young children will be assessed but scores will not take account of whether children are born in the summer.
  • Children will have varied pre-school backgrounds, in terms of cultures, experience of settings and knowledge of English.
  • Schools will have an undesirable incentive to depress scores in order to increase measured progress, especially if this means attaining extra funding.
  • What is considered key or informative in testing may also vary across schools.

Primary accountability and performance descriptors


ACME has used the following key principles to inform its advice on primary accountability:

  • national standards over time should be monitored
  • schools should to be held to account for learner progress
  • school accountability should be based on a rounded view of pupil progress and rely on a wide range of indicators
  • appropriate information on individual pupil progress should be reported to parents.

National Curriculum tests are used for four purposes: monitoring national standards over time, holding schools to account, reporting to parents and optimising the effectiveness of learning for pupils. These diverse purposes cannot all be satisfied using end of Key Stage 2 tests as a single measuring tool. In reforming accountability, there is a need to look at the education system as a whole. Many learners of mathematics are not making enough progress between Key Stages 1 and 4.

Performance descriptors

ACME  responded to the Department for Education consultation on performance descriptors for use in Key Stage 1 and 2 statutory teacher assessment for 2015/2016. ACME outlines the following principles for performance descriptors in the response:

  • Performance descriptors should support assessment for learning mathematics in the classroom as a key lever to raising standards. They should reflect the National Curriculum aims, thus encouraging connections between topics and the development of reasoning. They should identify the key ideas in that stage of learning, which enable students to progress to the next key stage.
  • Performance indicators should help teachers to fine-tune their understanding of learners' needs and tailor their planning and teaching accordingly. Performance descriptors should not encourage teaching to the test or put undue pressure on learners.
  • The purpose of performance descriptors is not only for summative assessment but also to inform teachers at the next key stage of students' readiness for the next key stage. Performance descriptors for mathematics should not restate the programme of study, but rather should summarise what needs to be tested at the end of a key stage.

Secondary accountability

Secondary accountability

Given the value of mathematics education to young people, at all attainment levels, and its unique importance for future economic prosperity, any new accountability model should support the following goals. All students should:

  • experience mathematics teaching that engenders the development of mathematical problem solving, reasoning, conceptual understanding and fluency for longer term progression
  • continue with mathematics to the end of Year 11
  • progress to an appropriate post 16 mathematics course.

Key points for ACME include:

  • Threshold measures encourage counterproductive practices in schools.
  • Accountability measures should not encourage curriculum acceleration.
  • GCSE assessments should encourage and reward deep mathematical learning. Accountability measures should not counteract this goal and should be a secondary consideration.
  • Changes to accountability measures at 16 should take into consideration wider changes in assessment and education. These should include raising of the school leaving age and changes to Key Stage 2 assessment, which will affect the construction of value added measures from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 4.
  • Accountability measures should also be broadened to reflect other outcomes we value, such as attitudes, quality of learning pre-16, participation and progression post-16 and transferability of learning to other contexts

16-19 accountability


ACME supports the aim for 16-19 accountability to include participation and attainment in mathematics. It is important to hold schools and colleges to account for providing mathematics study opportunities across all levels for all 16-19 students, as well as holding them to account for the attainment of these students. In addition, introducing new accountability measures should not unintentionally restrict students' access to key qualifications for progression to Higher Education such as AS and A level Further Mathematics.

In order to hold schools to account both for provision and attainment, accountability measures should enable an assessment of:

  • the proportion of students studying mathematics 16 -19
  • the level of mathematics being studied by students 16 -19
  • the attainment of students studying mathematics 16 -19.

© Copyright Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education 2021. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer | Cookies