National Curriculum assessments
are a series of educational assessments used to assess the attainment of children attending maintained schools in England
. They comprise a mixture of teacher-led and test-based assessment depending on the age of the pupils.
The assessments are completed at the end of each Key Stage and record attainment in terms of National Curriculum attainment levels, numbered between 1 and 8. The expectations for each stage are set out as follows:
In England, data collected from the assessments at all three key stages are published nationally in performance tables produced by the Department for Children, Schools and Families
alongside data for secondary schools relating to performance at Key Stage 4
Key Stage 1
During Year 2, teacher assessment is carried out in the core subjects of English
. In English, teachers are required to record a level in the three strands or Reading, Writing, and Speaking & Listening.
To assist teachers in arriving at an assessed level, tests and tasks can be completed in reading, writing and mathematics. These are normally taken during May.
Key Stage 2
During May in the final year of Key Stage 2, children undertake National Curriculum Tests in the three core subjects of English
. These provide records of attainment in the subjects, including separate levels for reading and writing as part of the overall English grade.
In addition, teachers are required to provide teacher assessments in the same subjects.
Key Stage 3
In May during the final year of Key Stage 3, all students are required to undertake National Curriculum Tests in the three core subjects of English
. These provide records of attainment in the subjects, including separate levels for reading and writing as part of the overall English grade. The English assessments also include the study of a Shakespeare
Previous plans to introduce a test for Information and Communication Technology were dropped in 2007 in favour of a bank of formative assessment materials.
In addition to the national tests, teacher assessments are required in all the subjects of the National Curriculum and in Religious Education
In addition to the statutory assessments at the end of each key stage, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority
produces suites of tests for the assessment of English and Mathematics in Years 3, 4 and 5 during Key Stage 2, and in Years 7 and 8 during Key Stage 3. These tests are not statutory, hence their titling as Optional Tests
Like many tests of this nature, the assessments have been subject to a variety of criticism. Two of the main points of concern are that they place children under constant stress for their whole academic lives, and that the principal purpose of national curriculum testing is for school league tables.
In its 2008 report into National Testing, the House of Commons, the Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families registered its concern with the current testing arrangements in state schools. It raised concerns that the "professional abilities of teachers" were under-used and that the high-stakes nature of the tests led to "phenomena such as teaching to the test, narrowing the curriculum and focussing disproportionate resources on borderline pupils." They further recommended that the multiple uses of National Curriculum assessment - for local accountability, national monitoring, and individual progress measurement - be separated into different forms of assessment.