NC Consultation Question 5: Do you have any comments on the proposed wording of the attainment targets?

There is no need for time-consuming research into the proposed wording of the attainment targets across the range of National Curriculum subjects as the wording is exactly the same for all subjects.

It reads:

 

By the end of each key stage, pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study.

 

Unfortunately the focus is the wording of the question although there are fundamental philosophical issues behind this change which need to be thoroughly explored. It is to be hoped that responses relating to these issues will be fully taken into account.

 

The rationale behind this minimalist approach to attainment targets is set out in the consultation document. In summary:

  • Legally ATs are required to set standards at end of each KS
  • Currently this is done with levels at KS1, 2 & 3 and grade C at KS4
  • The Government wants the focus of teaching to be ‘subject content’ rather than ‘abstract level descriptions’
  •  The single statement of attainment above will, the document states, ‘encourage all pupils to reach demanding standards’
  • The ‘apply’ and ‘understand’ aspects of the AT do not get a mention in the stated aspirations that parents ‘will be given clear information on what their children should know’ and that teachers ‘will be able to report on how every pupil is progressing in acquiring this knowledge’.

There is obviously a mismatch between this last statement and the wording of the attainment target but, with its narrow focus on the wording, there is a danger that this mismatch is could be considered outside the scope of the question.

There are many other important and pertinent issues, although they too might be deemed to be beyond the scope of the question. These include:

  • whether it is right that NC levels should no longer exist
  • the extent to which a single statement of attainment will contribute to higher standards
  • how feasible it is for teachers to report on pupil progress in terms of the extent to which they have met expectation in terms of what they know and how well they can apply and understand ‘the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study’
  • the extent to which parents are likely to gain a better understanding of their children’s progress from an exhaustive list of what has been learned (and not learned!) across the full range of subjects rather than from levels as at present
  • the extent to which the switch in emphasis towards memorisation of knowledge (the bottom level of Bloom’s taxonomy) is likely to lead to a real rise in standards…….see Dumbing Down in the Name of Rigour

 

Ideally these issues should be explored in parallel with accountability with which they are entwined. The secondary accountability consultation closes at the end of the month but, unfortunately the primary consultation is yet to be released.

 

If the purpose of the consultation is really to ensure the views and experience of respondents are fully exploited for the benefit of learners, comments relating to these wider issues will influence the revision of the document.

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One response to “NC Consultation Question 5: Do you have any comments on the proposed wording of the attainment targets?

  1. Well, if Bloom’s taxonomy is to be followed, surely it should read “Know, understand and apply…”! 😉

    I’m pleased that there’s concession to the acquisition of skills as well as knowledge though!

    I wish there was a place to question the notion of Key Stages – they seem to be a rather inelastic, and somewhat unnatural, girdle around the shapely figure of education. I’d like to see the end of End of Key Stage tests too – the exams don’t benefit the learner in any way at all.

    I’ve got no issue with the desire for ‘Subject content’ as long as it’s recognised that the use of the content is as important as the knowledge of the content (but I won’t hold my breath on that one).

    And I’m ambivalent about the levels going. On the one hand it seems wrong to be constantly labeling students, and a litany of data levels are really not very helpful or useful, and yet, ask any half decent practitioner where a learner is, and they will know – assessment’s part of what the job’s all about after all.

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