Performance Descriptors – what they will mean for me and my school

Thank you to Michael Dillon, Head Teacher at Kew Riverside Primary School for this guest post

I recently attended our Local Authority’s (Richmond & Kingston) annual Assessment and Learning Conference, which is always well organised and extremely informative.  Throughout the day there were several excellent speakers and presentations, including South Farnham School[1], the Institute of Education and the assessment consultant and writer Shirley Clarke[2].

However, what was particularly interesting this year, was the presentation by the Standards & Teaching Agency of the draft Performance Descriptors for Key Stage 1 and 2 teacher assessment.  I know that all my colleagues found the information really useful, especially as it was coming directly from the STA.

As you are no doubt are aware these have recently been published and are open for consultation until 18th December 2014.  These will eventually become the new indicators by which performance will be measured for Y2 and Y6.

So what does this mean in practical terms for us in school?  Well, I will be spending the rest of the academic year reviewing our whole school assessment policy.

I know the Performance Descriptors are still in consultation, but we will start with using our next INSET day (January 2015) to read them in more detail and take the opportunity to review them against our curriculum, particularly for Y2 and Y6.  We will also discuss different options available to describe performance.  Finally, and to be honest, most importantly, we will begin to review our assessment culture, assessment principles and what is actually happening in the classroom (our procedures).  Our initial focus will be the quality of the marking in children’s books, including evidence of peer and self assessment. Continue reading →

Choosing what type of test works best

Tests are widely used in schools. They include teacher-created tests either written by teachers or perhaps created by selecting questions from a ready-made online bank of questions and also a wide range of tests available from commercial suppliers. There are different types of test available too and what works best depends on why the test is being used i.e. what information the teacher wants from the assessment.

Tests for day-to-day assessment

Teachers need regular information about how their pupils are doing so that they can change their teaching to ensure it is effective. This is also a key focus of Ofsted inspections with inspectors wanting to see evidence of how schools are using assessment to improve teaching and raise attainment and to monitor the progress of all children as well as that of specific groups. For this type of assessment tests linked to specific curriculum areas are useful as they enable teachers to concentrate on particular areas. This makes it easier to identify the strengths and weaknesses that children have and the progress they are making.

This type of test can be used summatively and formatively. Teachers can use such tests at the beginning of a unit of work to assess prior learning and during topics to see how children are progressing and to identify whether further work may be needed. The diagnostic information from the tests enables teachers to make appropriate interventions and provide support and challenge as soon as possible. These tests can also be used summatively e.g. at the end of a topic, term or year to gain data that can then be used for reporting. Continue reading →

The new National Curriculum tests: What can we infer from the sample questions?

In July the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) published sample questions, mark schemes and commentaries for the new National Curriculum tests that will be introduced from summer 2016. There are separate samples for English reading, English grammar, punctuation and spelling and mathematics for each of Key Stages 1 and 2 and also for the new Key Stage 2 sampling test for science. These can all be downloaded from the DfE website. The final versions are due to be published in July 2015.

These exemplars do not give a complete picture of the new tests. For example, they do not

  • include full sample tests (there is a selection of questions instead)
  • reflect the curriculum coverage of the final tests
  • reflect the ratio of question types that will be in the final tests
  • reflect the range of question difficulties that will be in the final tests.

What the exemplars do provide however is an indication of how the new elements of the curriculum will be tested. Note that STA do not recommend that the sample questions be used for assessment purposes as they have not been fully trialled – they are for guidance only.

The sample questions focus on the new areas of the curriculum and there are repeated references to ‘increased demand’. In general, the level of difficulty of questions is higher overall and pupils need to do more to achieve one mark than they do currently.

The language around what each question is testing is a useful introduction for teachers to some of the jargon being used for analysis of Depth of understanding, Computational complexity etc. Such analysis means the test writers will have to be more careful about the overall difficulty level and think very carefully about what the pupil has to do in the process of answering each question. This should lead to improved year on year consistency. Continue reading →

Implications for Teaching and Learning 2014

Every year, Rising Stars commissions a team of experienced Year 6 teachers and consultants to review the Key Stage 2 National Test papers and pinpoint those areas where pupils performed less well.

This report outlines those areas that were identified as being problematic and makes suggestions for helping pupils to address these difficulties. This summary should be used in conjunction with teachers’ and schools’ own analysis of pupils’ performance in the National Tests and knowledge of the teaching that had prepared the pupils for them.

Please fill in the below form to receive your free reports Continue reading →

Assessment approaches developed by teaching schools

In October 2013 the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) invited teaching schools to bid for small-scale research funding to investigate assessment of the new National Curriculum now that there are no longer levels. A report summarising this research, Beyond Levels: alternative approaches developed by teaching schools, is now available.

34 teaching school alliances took part in the research, which involved 238 schools including 153 primary schools. Three priorities emerged from the research:

  • development of assessment tools to support individual progress
  • development of assessment tools to capture and record progress
  • use of technology to track attainment and progress.

Further details of each of these are provided below. Continue reading →

Assessment and Ofsted inspections from September 2014

In July, Ofsted published an updated version of the School Inspection Handbook. This handbook details the evidence that inspectors should be looking for when carrying out Section 5 inspections.

 

Of particular interest is the new guidance to support inspectors in making judgements during the phased removal of National Curriculum levels. Assessment is mentioned in the ‘Leadership and management’ and ‘Quality of teaching’ sections of the handbook, but it is a key focus of the ‘Achievement of pupils at the school’ section. Below is a summary of the key points and how use of the Rising Stars Assessment Progress Tests will help schools to provide the evidence that inspectors will be seeking.

Download the printable PDF version Continue reading →

Changes to Ofsted inspections from September 14

Ofsted letter to Headteachers

Ofsted has recently written to Headteachers alerting them to changes to inspections that will start from 1 September 2014. This follows publication of the Note for inspectors: use of assessment information in 2014/15.

The key details of relevance to primary schools are:

  • the introduction of a separate graded judgement for the early years;
  • an increased focus on how well school leaders tackle low-level disruption and ensure that pupils’ conduct and attitudes to learning are good;
  • greater attention on whether or not a school’s curriculum is broad and balanced and promotes tolerance of and respect for people of other faiths, cultures and lifestyles;
  • details as to what evidence Ofsted will use given the demise of National Curriculum levels.

The letter also outlines the criteria that will be used for unannounced inspections for 2014/15.

Ofsted and assessment information

The note for inspectors provides details of the assessment evidence that Ofsted will be using in 2014/15 to judge learning and progress recognising that there will be a mixed economy for the next year as schools start to migrate to the new curriculum and assessment arrangements. Specifically:

  • Pupils in Years 2 and 6 will still be taught the old National Curriculum so their attainment and progress will continue to be tracked and measured using levels.
  • For other pupils, apart from those in Year 1, there will be historic data expressed in National Curriculum levels as well as assessment data collected against the new Programmes of Study.
  • Additionally, some schools may choose to move away from the use of levels immediately, others may do so more gradually. In 2014-15 inspectors will recognise that schools are likely to be still developing their preferred new assessment system. Continue reading →