This page provides advice and guidance for members on arrangements for teacher assessments that form part of statutory National Curriculum assessments (‘SATs’) in England. The key points to note are that:

  • from the academic year 2023/24, statutory National Curriculum assessments at key stage 1 will no longer be mandatory and will be made available to schools on an optional basis;

  • guidance from the DfE and the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) contains important provisions that seek to address the workload risks of National Curriculum assessments, particularly concerning external moderation;

  • teachers and school leaders should be aware of these provisions and seek further information and advice from the NASUWT if they are not implemented by their school or local authority.

National Curriculum assessments at key stage 2

The requirements on schools and local authorities in respect of mandatory teacher assessment at the end of key stage 2 are set out in Government guidance. Schools and local authorities should have regard to this guidance when undertaking tasks and responsibilities that relate to statutory teacher assessment.

All primary schools must ensure that teacher assessment is carried out for all eligible pupils at the end of key stage 2. These assessments must be undertaken in English writing, English reading, mathematics and science.

Every year, at least 25% of schools have samples of their teacher assessment outcomes in English writing, moderated externally by local authorities.

In the NASUWT’s experience, the most significant workload risks associated with National Curriculum assessment relates to external moderation. These risks result from either the process of moderation itself or how schools seek to anticipate the requirements of moderation.

Requirements of schools

Guidance makes clear that for teacher assessment at key stage 2, schools must:

  • Minimise assessment-related workload burdens

Schools must not require teachers to produce evidence to justify statutory assessments beyond that generated in the course of pupils’ day-to-day work in the classroom. Specifically, guidance makes clear that teachers are not required to produce checklists of evidence or annotated portfolios of pupils’ work in anticipation of external moderation.

  • Allow teachers to make use of their professional judgements in making assessments

All relevant pupils must be assessed against ‘pupil can’ statements produced by the STA that reflect different standards of attainment. Changes made to the assessment framework in 2018, particularly on the assessment of English writing, were intended to give teachers greater scope to use their discretion over assessments than was previously the case. The guidance confirms that teachers’ professional judgement over assessments should take precedence in the determination of outcomes as long as they can justify their decisions during moderation.

  • Support teachers’ professional dialogue with external moderators effectively

A critical safeguard against excessive moderation-related workload burdens is the provision in the guidance for moderation to take place by means of a professional dialogue between teachers and external moderators. This professional dialogue allows teachers to talk through their judgements with moderators directly, making direct use of pupils’ day-to-day classroom work. Such a process avoids the need for teachers to generate additional material to justify their assessment judgements.

Schools must release teachers to participate in professional moderation discussions and provide a ‘quiet area’ within which these discussions can take place. The NASUWT is clear that these discussions should be organised in a way that does not compromise teachers’ contractual rights to a reasonable lunch break or to planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time.

The Union also insists that these meetings should take place within the school day.

Responsibilities of local authorities

Local authorities are responsible for the conduct of moderation in all schools in their area, including academies, free schools and those independent schools that have chosen to participate in statutory National Curriculum assessment. Local authorities are required to:

  • have a named, accountable officer with strategic responsibility for statutory assessment;

  • ensure that any local arrangements not covered by the statutory guidance are subject to local agreement and are not simply imposed on schools;

  • not ask schools for pupil data in advance of a moderation visit and recognise that ‘a pupil’s work in books will often have all the evidence a teacher needs’;

  • ensure that moderators only consider evidence derived from normal classroom practice, such as pupils’ exercise books or work folders;

  • not ask teachers for portfolios of pupils’ work or checklists of evidence; and

  • not dictate what schools’ evidence should look like.

It is important to note that all local authority moderation managers or lead moderators are required to undergo training where these expectations are made clear. There is, therefore, no justification for any local authority ignoring or seeking to qualify any of the clear legal requirements set out above.

Discontinuation of mandatory assessments at key stage 1

Following the introduction of Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA), from the 2023/24 academic year, schools are no longer legally required to undertake end of key stage 1 assessments. However, the DfE and the STA have elected to continue to make assessment materials available to schools to use on a voluntary basis.

It is important to note that the outcomes of these assessments will not be used by the DfE to make formal judgements of school performance. Schools will not be subject to a detriment if they chose not to use the materials for the purposes of summative assessment. The outcomes of voluntary assessments do not have to be reported to local authorities or the DfE. Ofsted will treat the outcomes of voluntary assessments in the same way it treats other internally-conducted assessments.

Our advice and guidance on Graded and Ungraded Ofsted Inspections of Schools in England provides further information the treatment of assessment data by inspectors.

Where schools decide to make use of the optional materials for their internal assessment purposes, it is important that they are used in a way that does not result in an increase workload burdens for teachers and leaders. In particular, schools should not duplicate summative assessments and it is likely that the most sensible approach is to use either the optional STA assessment materials or another form of summative assessment but not both.

Further advice and information

Any concerns that schools or local authorities are not acting in accordance with statutory guidance, or that the use of option key stage 1 assessment is not appropriate, should be raised with the NASUWT as a matter of urgency. Help and advice are available by contacting the NASUWT Member Support Advice Team.