No better illustration than this wonderful video from our school website:
Pay particular attention to this section of the pledge:
- giving schools more notice of significant changes to the curriculum, exams and accountability, and not making changes to qualifications in the academic year or during a course, unless there are urgent reasons for doing so
At Greenways we have been pro-active in adapting to life without levels, producing our own bespoke assessment system and making sure that the children are clear about what it is they are learning. All of this good work risks being derailed by recent in-year changes and guidance. Exemplifications, details of the tests, guidance about how progress will be measured, all of these have been delivered in-year, some as late as last week. At the same time the submission date for teacher assessments in writing have been brought forward a month to May, with exemplifications only available from last week.
(By the way, with regard to writing, confusion reigns as to whether we moderate against the interim framework, the exemplifications just released or our own system, or indeed against all three. As usual we are ahead of the game and have mapped out the links between the three different system to make the moderation process easier and have already built in additional moderation meetings. A big piece of work undertaken at very short notice.)
In Year 2, we have only recently found out about what is going to be expected in terms of both teacher assessment and the new tests. Have a look at this article about teacher assessments in writing. This stems from a meeting on 5th February, with the writing exemplification document issued only a week before:
The message is clear; we need to change what we teach, teach to the tests and move away from teaching about good writing to a far more formulaic approach, and all of this with just a small amount of time left in-year to deliver these changes.
Michale Rosen is equally scathing about the proposed reading test for 7 year olds:
Again, we need to dumb down our teaching to enable our children to do well in these tests, rather than focus on mastery, a very different approach to the intentions behind the new curriculum.
It doesn’t get any better in Year 6. The new system was not supposed to be a box ticking exercise, and yet that is what it has become:
And in times of a much-reduced local authority capacity whilst at the same time increasing levels of accountability for their schools, authorities also need to be brave and do what is right for the children. Not everyone has the confidence that they will be this brave:
So, what next?
We haven’t even mentioned maths yet. We know we have made an excellent start in delivering the new curriculum and see strong evidence of progress and learning in the classrooms. But there are no guarantees how closely the Year 6 maths papers will actually match the new curriculum and all schools feel that this year will be something of a lottery. Is that really how school leaders should feel?
The National Union of Teachers has already called for the tests to be cancelled:
I last week received a letter from Russell Hobby, General secretary of the national Association of Headteachers:
So, assessment: enough is now enough, isn’t it?
Three and a half thousand of you were kind enough to respond to my email about the ongoing farce of writing teacher assessment. 99.5% confirmed the change of date had serious workload implications. The government has broken its promise.
Armed with this evidence I took your case directly to the schools minister Nick Gibb on Tuesday. The government were unable to defend the decision.
Between that email and this one, however, the writing exemplification materials were released – months too late. From these we learned:
- The expected standard is actually closer to a 5c than a 4b.
- The materials themselves are unusable in the short time we have remaining to us. I am not even sure they can be properly read in the time remaining to us.
Not only have you had to deliver a more demanding new curriculum in just two years. Not only have you lost ten percent of this year’s teaching time before the assessment. You have just learned that you need to attain several terms more progress in the few months remaining to you.
I suggested to the minister that either they reset the date of submission and recalibrate the standard or they suspend entirely the use of floor standards and league table data this year – they should just admit that they have no idea what the data will look like or mean. To hold people accountable to it would be a travesty.
I have given the government one week from today to provide a response to this. If we do not receive an adequate one – and by that I mean a dramatic change in their plans – then we will act this year to protect pupils and schools.
It doesn’t stop with writing. This is one immediate response to the specific teacher assessment issue. There are far wider problems. We remain opposed to many changes in assessment, from reintroducing tests at KS1 to times tables tests at KS2 to re-sits in year seven to inappropriate content in both key stages.
It looks like a boycott is on the cards unless there are significant changes to the system this year. It is important to note that, whilst clearly teachers and school leaders have additional workload issues when ill-thought out and late-notice changes are made, the genuine victims are the children. The system now put forward by the government this year can only harm learning and progress, do not reflect a mastery curriculum and revert to a mechanical and formulaic view of what learning looks like and that is fundamentally not fair.