‘Gaming’ in the English primary school: Do whatever you need to make your data look good

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In an international policy environment of intensified high-stakes accountability, pupil assessment data are an invaluable commodity and critical indicator of both school and teacher effectiveness. Teachers’ engagement with pupil data and the associated experiences of increased accountability are of great consequence, and highly contentious for perceptions and experiences of policy. In the context of the English primary school, this paper explores the progressively tactical nature of teachers’ enactment of assessment policy, and the impetus to ‘make the data look good’. It draws upon an empirical study of rich qualitative data from 42 interviews with 22 primary teachers employed in the South-East of England. The findings add to an evolving field about ‘gaming’, and particular consequences for teacher identity are discussed. The paper further advances insights about teachers’ experiences of ‘in-school assessment’ as pertinent for understanding gaming. It locates the pupil progress meeting as an iteration of teacher accountability and performativity, and particular site of contestation, and a specific contribution to knowledge in this regard.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Education Policy
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2024


  • Accountability
  • Assessment
  • Gaming
  • Performativity
  • primary teacher

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