Thanks to Deputy Head Michael Tidd for this post.
As another year draws to a close, conversations in school revolve around new classes, end-of-year reports and sports days – and of course, final assessments. For those teaching in Year 6, much of that is taken out of our hands, and the work is done by this time of the year, but not so for the other year groups. And it’s the other year groups that we’ll be taking forward into the new academic year.
We talk a lot as a profession about the doubts raised in secondary schools about Key Stage 2 data, and even in junior schools about infant data, but we tend to be a bit more circumspect about the same challenges within our schools. So how do we make sure that our end-of-year assessment data is just as valuable as a start-of-year indicator to the new teacher?
The challenge has been made all the more difficult in recent years as we try to work out just what we should be expecting in each year group. Every school is still finding its way in deciding what ‘Year 4 Expected’ might look like. But the aim for internal transitions shouldn’t be to categorise our pupils – it should be to share useful information with our colleagues.
As time has gone on, there’s plenty to help us in making those calls. In my own school, we use a Key Objectives approach that tracks pupils’ achievements, not in broad bands, but by saying exactly what it is they can and can’t do. Not every last detail of the curriculum, but the big issues. Can the Year 1s use full stops for sentences? Does every Year 3 know how to use column addition? How many Year 5s can use quotations to back up their reading responses? The sort of detail that will give the new teacher a starting point for their planning.
We don’t do this blind, either. There are plenty of resources we draw upon over the course of the year to help us to make the judgements. We make use of the half-termly Rising Stars Progress Tests to review children’s attainment, and get an idea of those who are flying high, and those who perhaps need a bit more guidance – after all, we know they’ll all face a written test at the end of it.
Perhaps most importantly: we talk to each other. We’re lucky enough to work in teams of classes, so we always have somebody else on hand to share our thoughts with. That might be looking at work, querying answers, or maybe comparing test scores. We’ll use the Rising Stars Optional Tests at the end of the year to get a benchmark figure, but even then, it’s teachers judgements’ that are final. The resources are there just to support our professional decision-making.
It means that at transition meetings, we can talk about the children we have come to know and understand over the year, but we can also pass on useful information that will help those children get off to a flying start in September. And what better way to raise standards across the school than to ensure that we all share a stake in the journey of our pupils.
You can follow Michael Tidd on Twitter @MichaelT1979