Developing policy, principles and practice in primary school science assessment

19 July 2012

The Nuffield Foundation has published a report setting out a proposed framework for the assessment of science in primary schools (Key Stages 1 and 2). The report is the outcome of a seminar chaired by Professor Wynne Harlen and held at the Foundation in June.

The framework describes how evidence of pupils’ attainment should be collected, recorded, communicated and used. It details how assessment data can be optimised for different uses and outlines the support needed to implement the procedures. 

Summary of proposed framework

1. Teachers use formative assessment throughout the year to support pupils’ achievement.

2. Information gathered by teachers during the year is used to provide a narrative annual report to parents and is passed to the pupil’s next teacher or school.

3. At the end of each key stage (KS1, Lower KS2 and Upper KS2), teachers judge whether or not each pupil has achieved the designated learning outcomes for the Key Stage in the main components of the National Curriculum (‘science knowledge and understanding’ and ‘working scientifically’).

These judgments should be reported in terms of whether the relevant learning outcomes have been ‘achieved’ or ‘not yet achieved’ (an intermediate category could also be trialled to facilitate more nuanced decisions). This information should be used to show the progress that individual pupils have made as they pass through school.

The translation of detailed formative data to summative judgements should be moderated within the school, using group procedures and reference to national exemplars.

4. At the end of each key stage, individual pupil records are aggregated for each class, for the school as a whole and for particular groups. The data are used for internal school evaluation and to track the progress of groups such as higher and lower achieving pupils.

5. Each year, data relating to the proportion of Year 6 pupils who achieve the learning objectives for Upper KS2 is reported to parents and governors and published on the school website (but is not collected centrally).

6. At a national level, performance is tracked via annual testing of random samples of Year 6 pupils. Several different sets of test items from a bank are used in order to employ the maximum number of items while minimising the impact of the testing. The sample test results should be the only data reported at national level.

The sample test results should be used to publish short reports relating to particular learning outcomes. This will enable schools and parents to evaluate pupils’ performance within a national context.