Education Select Committee: second session

Thanks to Michael Tidd for the following article.

Following on from nearly 400 written submissions, and my own appearance last month, the Education Select Committee recently took further evidence from academic experts in assessment and data – and some common trends are arising.

This time, the evidence was from organisations such as Education Datalab, Ofsted, and the assessment experts of Durham and Cambridge Universities. The main strands of discussion focussed again on the impact of accountability – no surprises there – and it seems that the experts agreed with the classroom teachers by and large: it’s the high stakes that can cause the risks.

Becky Allen set out early on her view – as someone who deals with the data all the time – that we are making substantial decisions on what is always going to be rather fragile data in primary assessment. The limitations have long been known to teachers: the snapshot of test, the unreliability of KS1 data as a baseline, the small numbers of pupils. She echoed the point that has been made before that we really shouldn’t be making judgements of schools based on a single year’s data.

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Education Select Committee: primary assessment inquiry

Thank you to Deputy Head Michael Tidd for the following article. 

It’s not every day you get invited to the Houses of Parliament – and in fact, I still haven’t been. But I did at least get to go in the posh glass building next door to provide evidence to the Education Select Committee for their inquiry into primary assessment.

Anyone who knows me, or reads what I’ve written, knows that I’ve plenty to say on the topic – but with only an hour, and with MPs in control of the questions, I wasn’t sure I’d have time to say everything I wanted to.

The Select Committee has decided to hold the inquiry after the various headlines and events surrounding primary assessment over the past year, and they started with a very big – and vague – question about the purpose of assessment.

A considerable amount of discussion revolved around how the changes to primary assessment in recent years had affected teaching, learning, the curriculum and, of course, children. I think it’s fair to say that we highlighted a number of concerns in all those respects. Speaking personally, I’m broadly in favour of statutory assessment at the end of Year 6, but with our experiences of the very challenging reading test last year, the hugely frustrating writing assessment framework, and the clear reduction of time spent on science and other foundation subjects it’s clear that the impacts are significant.

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Vocabulary in the KS2 2016 reading test – sprint or marathon?

Thanks to Shareen Mayers for this article on vocabulary in the KS2 reading test.

Since the release of the 2016 KS2 reading test, I have been thinking about the vocabulary element in great depth. I have read endlessly about encouraging pupils to read for pleasure, shared reading, skimming and scanning and engendering a love of books, and I whole-heartedly agree with this but something told me to look deeper at the actual words that pupils were expected to know and understand. Indeed, they all seemed a little closer to home than I expected!

To my surprise, most of the words tested were a part of the national curriculum spelling appendix for KS1 and KS2. Words like ‘dangerous,’ ‘curious’ and ‘unique’ are even listed as non-statutory words within the national curriculum and the spelling rules/areas shown in the table below are all in the national curriculum. Of course, we cannot predict the vocabulary but this was interesting to note.

When teaching spellings, it is also important that pupils understand their meaning in different contexts as well as being able to spell them and use some/most of them in their writing.

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Tennyson Road Primary School, Luton

This year’s key stage 2 results paint a national picture of schools struggling to deal with the demands of a tough new curriculum. Just 53 per cent of 11-year-olds reached the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in 2016, a drop from 80 per cent in 2015.

But the performance tables reveal that some primaries are coping with the challenge better than others.

At Tennyson Road Primary, in Luton – an authority where results overall were below the national average – 100 per cent of children reached the expected level across the board.

And pupils didn’t just scrape it – average scaled scores (where 100 represents the expected standard) were 109, 110 and 111. To set the achievement in context, the school has a high proportion of pupils with English as an additional language, high mobility and high deprivation. Children start reception with below national average development.

Tennyson Road is an “outstanding” school and used to performing well. However, two years ago, when the results in Year 5 assessments were below what was expected, Head teacher Hilary Power knew the school had to raise its game.

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Learning from Raise

Thanks to Michael Tidd for this helpful article.

The excitement of opening up Raise Online when the data is first published is… well, perhaps excitement is not quite the right word. Nevertheless, when the data finally arrived this term headteachers will have been poring over it trying to extract every last detail of information about last year’s performance. Doubtless governors too will get their chance to share in the scatterplots and tables, wisely guided by the professional leads.

The problem is, it’s too late for all those children, and just like the stock market adverts always tell us: historic performance is not necessarily a guide to future success. Leaders and governors need to consider what has gone before, but all the while need to be keeping an eye on the future. So while Raise can tell us something of what we achieved last year, how else do we keep everyone informed, including our governors?

One big thing that is evident from this year’s Raise summary is the clear focus on disadvantaged pupils, i.e. those eligible for pupil premium funding. Barely a page goes by without the group being separated out from the rest of the cohort and their attainment and progress being listed separately. In many cases, it’s also compared to other pupils nationally, but it’s important to note that it’s not other pupil premium children, but rather the non-PP children they’re being compared to. That’s important to consider when looking at other data in school.

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Ten recommendations from the Rochford Review

Thanks to Lorraine Petersen for this article.

After waiting for over six months, the final report from the Rochford Review was published on 19th October, just as many schools were preparing for their half term break.

The Rochford Review was established in July 2015 to review statutory assessment arrangements for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests. The interim report, published in December 2015 provided an interim solution for reporting outcomes in 2016. It published the interim pre-key stage standards for those pupils working below the expected standard at the end of key stage 1 and key stage 2. The review team then continued discussions, looking at a longer term solution especially in regards to the future of P Scales.

The final report published in October outlines ten recommendations for those pupils who cannot access statutory assessments as they have not completed the relevant programmes of study when they reach the appropriate chronological age. These recommendations will be part of a wider government consultation on primary assessment that will take place in spring 2017.

The ten recommendations are:

  1. The removal of the statutory requirement to assess pupils using P scales.
  2. The interim pre-key stage standards for pupils working below the standard of national curriculum tests are made permanent and extended to include all pupils engaged in subject-specific learning.
  3. Schools assess pupils’ development in all four areas of need outlined in the SEND Code of Practice, but statutory assessment for pupils who are not engaged in subject-specific learning should be limited to the area of cognition and learning. Continue reading →

Reading in the national tests: how can we rise to the challenge?

Thanks to Deputy Headteacher Michael Tidd for this article. 

It seems that the 2016 reading test may well go down as one of those test papers that we all talk about for years. Like the traumas of “Caves and Caving in Davely Dale” or that wretched ‘fried-egg’ Venn diagram of a few years ago, there are some papers that take on an almost legendary quality. Jemmy the Giraffe is sure to have such fame. The challenge in the key stage 1 test was similarly daunting.

There is almost universal agreement that the texts were more difficult than those we’d seen in the sample test papers. But we need to be careful not to dismiss it as a one-off, pinning our hopes on easier tasks next year. The direction of travel has been clear for a while, and we need to do the best we can to prepare our pupils for challenging texts. While the 2016 paper may have been a particularly difficult paper, the thresholds have clearly shown that the DfE intends for the test to be hard. So, what can be done?

It’s clear from the new tests – and indeed the samples – that more challenging texts will be chosen for reading test papers at both key stages. Perhaps this is a reflection of the government’s intention that children read earlier, more frequently and more widely throughout primary schooling. Certainly this seems a likely outcome of the changes. Schools would do well to look at how they can broaden their children’s reading experience. It’s worth remembering that the National Curriculum clearly sets out that children should be exposed to books and stories which are beyond their reading level. 

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Primary assessment announcement: what does it mean?

Thank you to Deputy Headteacher Michael Tidd for this article. 

As promised, this week Justine Greening announced some changes to Primary Assessment, after the department reflected on the process earlier this year. The changes fall in three main parts: the coasting standard; assessment for lower-attaining pupils; and plans for reform of assessment more generally. Hopefully this will mean that in the next couple of years, schools can be fairly confident of what’s coming up. Consultations will begin in the new academic year about what changes should be made in the longer term.

Assessment in 2017 and 2018… and beyond

The general message here is that there will be relatively little change over the next two years. The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile will continue to be used, as will the current style of KS1 and KS2 tests and Teacher Assessment. The only exception is that the Key Stage 1 Grammar and Spelling test will not be compulsory.

This will mean no new times tables test in Year 6, no phonics check in Year 3, and no new Year 7 resit tests at least for the next couple of years.

It also means that schools will continue to use the “interim” assessment frameworks for Teacher Assessment for the next two years. The department has clearly recognised the challenges presented this year, and has said that additional guidance will be available for 2017, as well as statutory moderation training for Local Authority moderators.

This broad consistency will be welcomed by many in the interim, but it is clear that the department still feels there are areas that could still be improved. We can apparently expect a consultation in the spring term about any alterations to be made in the longer term. Continue reading →

Classroom Monitor National Primary Assessment Survey 2016: the results

In summer 2016, Classroom Monitor launched a National Primary Assessment Survey to find out how schools have adapted to a world free from levels.

What’s included?

The whitepaper includes findings in the following areas.

  • Post levels life: How many schools continue to record assessment against National Curriculum Levels?
  • Personalised v Specialist Solution: How many schools are choosing to create their own framework against those using an off the shelf solution, and how do each rate their success?
  • The way assessment is recorded: Do schools consider a specialist solution worth the time and money? Or are schools better off sticking to traditional means of recording assessment? Continue reading →

Implications for Teaching and Learning 2016

Every year, Rising Stars commissions a team of experienced teachers and consultants to review the Key Stage 2 national test papers and provide analysis of the questions to help schools focus on these areas when preparing children for future tests.

Implications for Teaching and Learning Reports 2016:

  • have been written by an expert team to provide reliable information and analysis
  • can help to inform your preparation for the 2017 national tests
  • can be used in conjunction with the Achieve resources to help improve next year’s results. Continue reading →