Currently, what are the statutory requirements for assessment in primary schools?

"The approach to progression that we are proposing carries implications for assessment, since the purpose of statutory assessment would change from assigning a ‘best fit’ level to each pupil to tracking which elements of the curriculum they have adequately achieved and those which require more attention."

   The Framework for the National Curriculum
   Report by the Expert Panel for the National Curriculum Review December 2011 (Chapter 8.23)

While the statutory end of key stage tests do not conform to the above intention of the Expert Panel, this principle is invaluable in developing approaches to summative assessment in schools and should inform the use of the frameworks for end of key stage teacher assessments (see below).



The Early Years Foundation Stage itself continues to be statutory.  Currently, the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile continues to be statutory although because of Covid-19 it was not mandatory in 2021.  Following a pilot in 2019 and 2020 and a consultation at the end of the 2019 academic year, all schools will move to the updated Profile when circumstances permit.

National curriculum assessments: early years foundation stage gives a link to the current handbooks, Assessment and Reporting arrangements and statutory framework.  When the Profile is updated for all, the Handbook will reflect this.

The Handbook explains the role of the Profile and states that “Settings should develop their own approach to assessment which meets the needs of their children, parents, staff and curriculum.  Statutory practitioner assessment at the end of the early years foundation stage is just one part of the broader assessments that practitioners make.”  Early Years Foundation Stage Profile 2021 Handbook, Section 2.1, page 9.

In response to the 2017 primary assessment consultation, the government is developing a statutory reception baseline assessment to be introduced in autumn following pilots and an optional Early Adopter Year in 2020-21.  It is planned that this will be used as the baseline for measuring the progress primary schools make with their pupils.  See also Reception baseline assessment: information leaflet.


Phonics check

The phonics check is administered towards the end of year 1 in normal years, with the requirement to repeat it in Y2 with any pupils who do not meet the required standard.

See Exams, testing and assessment: detailed information for latest Key stage 1 assessment and reporting arrangements (ARA) section 6 and Phonics screening check: administration.


End of Key Stage 1

In 2018, the government stated that the existing Key Stage 1 (KS1) assessments (both the national curriculum tests and teacher assessments) will become non-statutory once the reception baseline is fully established.  The earliest point at which this can happen is the academic year when the first cohort of pupils who have taken part in the pilot of the new baseline assessment will have reached the end of KS1.

In the meantime, in normal years the end of Key Stage 1 teacher assessment in mathematics and reading is informed by externally set, internally marked tests.  There is also an optional externally set test in grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS) that is intended to inform the teacher assessment of writing.  The test reflects the new national curriculum and results are expressed as a scaled score (see ‘Scaled scores’ below).  

Science will continue to be teacher assessed (not applicable in 2021).

The test frameworks state that:

  • the GPS test (optional – used to inform writing teacher assessment) will have two papers, one of which is a spelling task;
  • the reading test will have a lower-demand paper with a combined reading and answer booklet, and a higher-demand test with separate reading and answer booklets;
  • the maths test will have two papers, an arithmetic paper and a paper on mathematical fluency, problem-solving and reasoning;
  • no papers are strictly timed.

Scaled scores

The Key Stage 1 reading test framework states:

The raw score on the test (the total achieved marks out of the total 40 marks) will be converted into a scaled score using a conversion table.  The purpose of translating raw scores into scaled scores is that performance can be reported on a consistent scale for all children, which retains the same meaning from one year to the next so a particular scaled score reflects the same level of attainment in one year as in the previous year, having adjusted for any differences in difficulty of the test.

Additionally, each child will receive an overall result indicating whether or not he or she has achieved the required standard on the test.  A standard setting exercise will be conducted on the first live test in 2016 in order to determine the scaled score needed for a child to be considered to have met the standard.” KS1 English reading test framework, Section 6.5, page 16

Tests will inform TA, as noted previously.

Teacher assessment frameworks inform statutory teacher assessments at the end of key stage 1:

These frameworks should be used only to make a statutory teacher assessment judgement at the end of the key stage following completion of the key stage 1 curriculum.  They should not be used to track progress throughout the key stage.

For mathematics, reading and writing teachers assess pupils as either working towards the expected standard, working at the expected standard or working at greater depth within the expected standard.  The Frameworks for reading and maths were revised for 2019.

  • For science, teachers assess pupils as to whether they are working at the expected standard.
  • There are also pre key stage standards for pupils who are working below the standard of National curriculum assessments and engaged in subject- specific study.  P Scales were statutory in 2019 for pupils with SEND working below these pre- Key Stage standards.  Assessment frameworks for pupils currently assessed on P scales are planned to change in 2021-22. The Rochford Review suggested changes to assessment for pupils working below the standards of National Curriculum assessments, and the changes are the outcome of a consultation on the Review’s recommendations. See The engagement model, an assessment tool for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests and not engaged in subject-specific study.
  • Ofsted (March 2014) announced that it will expect to see evidence of moderation where there are separate infant and junior schools.

See Exams, testing and assessment: detailed information for latest Key stage 1 assessment and reporting arrangements (ARA).

Year 4 multiplication tables check will be introduced (currently planned for 2022, optional in 2021)  following a pilot in June 2019.

For more information see Multiplication Tables Check


End of Key Stage 2

At the end of Key Stage 2, pupils continue to sit externally set and marked tests in mathematics, reading, and grammar, punctuation and spelling.  These have been used since 2016 for school performance measures.

A sample of pupils will continue to sit tests in science every two years to give a picture of national performance in the subject.

In common with Key Stage 1, the KS2 tests and assessments reflect the content of the new curriculum.

Frameworks for teacher assessment

Frameworks for teacher assessment inform statutory teacher assessments at the end of Key Stage 2.  As at KS1, they should be used only to make a statutory teacher assessment judgement at the endof the key stage following completion of the key curriculum.  They should not be used to track progress throughout the key stage. 

  • Schools are no longer required to submit teacher assessment results in reading or maths.
  • For writing, teachers assess pupils as working towards the expected standard, working at the expected standard or working at greater depth within the expected standard. The writing framework was revised in 2017-18.
  • For science, teachers assess pupils as to whether they are working at the expected standard. The science framework was revised for 2018-19.

As at KS1, there are also pre-KS2 standards in reading, writing and maths for pupils working below the standard of the tests but engaging in subject-specific study.

In 2019, P Scales were statutory for pupils with SEN not yet engaged in subject-specific study.  Assessment frameworks for these pupils are planned to change to The engagement model in 2021-22, as at KS1.

The test frameworks state that:

  • The GPS test will have two papers, one of short answer grammar and punctuation questions and one spelling test
  • The reading test will have one booklet covering a balanced range of texts and an answer booklet
  • The maths test will have one 30 minute arithmetic paper and two papers of 40 minutes each on mathematical fluency, problem-solving and reasoning.

In normal years, the results of the tests in reading, mathematics; and grammar, punctuation and spelling are reported to pupils and parents as scaled scores (see previous note on scaled scores for Key Stage 1).

For tests, parents are be provided with their child’s scaled score and whether this equates to the expected standard (100+) or a high score (110+), along with the school and national averages.  For teacher assessment, reports should show whether pupils have reached the expected standard or, if available, standards below this or greater depth – again, alongside school and national averages.

See Exams, testing and assessment: detailed information for latest Key stage 2 assessment and reporting arrangements (ARA).


Progress measures

Up to 2019, Progress was measured from Average Points Scores at KS1 to scaled scores at KS2, compared to other pupils nationally with the same starting points. Average progress from each starting point is zero.

Progress measures are not required to be reported to parents on an individual pupil basis.  They are used only for school accountability.

Until children who take the baseline assessment reach Y6, progress will continue to be measured from KS1.

No KS2 progress scores were available in 2020 or 2021, due to cancellation of statutory tests. From 2022, when tests are expected to resume, KS2 progress will be measured from KS1, although the methodology for calculating this is not yet known. These cohorts of children will have been assessed at KS1 using the reformed approach (i.e. not using ‘levels’) so the methodology will have to be different to previous years.

For children completing KS2 in 2024 and 2025, it will not be possible to calculate progress scores, as no KS1 assessments were collected for these children in 2020 and 2021 respectively.

See also:

Primary school accountability 

Secondary school accountability


Return to Assessment without levels: Assessment in the context of the National Curriculum