Life at the crossroads

By Ed Walsh,  Lead Consultant for Science with Cornwall Learning and Science Consultant to Rising Stars on the New Curriculum Assessment Science Progress Tests

In some ways being the coordinator of a core subject is like choosing to live by a crossroads – lively, things arriving from all directions, careful management required and highly variable. Teachers need guidance, pupils need inspiration, the SLT needs stories of success and parents and carers want children to succeed.

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Assessment Beyond 2014 – a headteacher’s view

by Michael Dillon, Headteacher of Kew Riverside Primary School in Richmond, London.

On the face of it, the government’s rationale for change [i] is difficult to disagree with:

  • ongoing, teacher-led assessment is a crucial part of effective teaching,
  • schools should have the freedom to decide how to teach their curriculum and how to track the progress that pupils make,
  • both summative teacher assessment and external testing are important,
  • accountability is key to a successful school system, and therefore must be fair and transparent,
  • measures of both progress and attainment are important for understanding school performance, and,
  • a broad range of information should be published to help parents and the wider public know how well schools are performing.

As a Headteacher I would always support high expectations, setting targets, being accountable, having transparency and improving communication with parents. And it goes without saying that I always want to improve teaching and learning – for both teachers and children.

In my opinion, simply removing the National Curriculum levels will not necessarily achieve the desired goals listed above. There is a real danger that we will simply be replacing one arbitrary measure of achievement with another. And more importantly, unless we work together as a profession, valuable resources (time and money) will be wasted on inventing hundreds of different assessment frameworks that will not be valid or reliable.

The main issues I see at the moment are the sheer pace of change and the lack of information and advice available. The idea that Headteachers can introduce a new ‘reliable and valid’ assessment framework that will achieve the above outcomes, ready for September, from a practical perspective, is unachievable. Continue reading →

Mathematics assessment and the new National Curriculum

Clarity for parents, but confusion for schools? by Sarah-Anne Fernandes, Educational Consultant on the Rising Stars Assessment Mathematics Progress Tests

As schools grapple with the roll out of the new 2014 mathematics programmes of study for all year groups in the primary phase (except Years 2 and 6, which are exempt until September 2015), another major consideration for teachers is how mathematics will be assessed.

For teachers, arguably one of the most overwhelming challenges facing schools is the removal of levels to describe how a child is performing in mathematics across Years 1 to 6. The government’s biggest motivation for removing levels is based on parents not being able to understand level descriptors clearly and thus not knowing precisely how their child is performing in comparison to age-related expectations and also in relation to their peers. In response to this, the government will establish a standardised score scale system at the end of Key Stage 2 to help parents gain a better understanding of their child’s attainment.

The finer details of what this will actually look like are yet to be determined, but they are expected to be published by the Standards and Testing Agency in line with the new 2016 assessments. What we do know is that this standardised average scale score will be used to decipher if a pupil has met the ‘secondary readiness standard’ and will be one of the key measures that will be made available in the performance tables.

Apart from setting this scaled score at the end of Key Stage 2, the government will not be providing any further guidance or prescription as to how schools should track and assess pupils’ progress across the primary phase. Continue reading →

Statutory teacher assessment requirements from 2016

As well as stressing the importance of ongoing formative and summative teacher assessment, the DfE Reforming assessment and accountability for primary schools document also provides details of the statutory National Curriculum teacher assessments that will take place from summer 2016.

Key Stage 1

The subjects for which there will be statutory teachers assessment at Key Stage 1 are shown in the table below.

Subject Additional information
Reading TA informed by test scores
Writing TA informed by test score for GPS
Speaking and listening
Grammar, punctuation and spelling
Mathematics TA informed by test scores
Science

This is similar to current requirements but with the addition of teacher assessment of grammar, punctuation and spelling. Instead of a National Curriculum level, teachers will report teacher assessment results by deciding which new performance descriptor each pupil best meets.

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The new National Curriculum: key dates for assessment

The new National Curriculum is now being taught and schools are working to establish assessment systems that work in a world without levels. The Department for Education will be releasing more information over the coming year and some aspects of the new arrangements will not take place for some time. The table below is a summary of the key dates for the next few years to help primary schools see what is happening and when.

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How Rising Stars New Curriculum Assessment meets the DfE’s new assessment principles

The DfE’s new assessment principles have been produced to help schools prepare to implement new assessment arrangements for tracking pupil progress against the new National Curriculum.

These principles are also designed to help schools choose published assessment resources from suppliers.

Together with the supporting Progress Trackers, the Rising Stars Progress Tests were specifically written to help schools track pupil progress in reading, grammar, punctuation and spelling, mathematics and science.

The summary table below identifies in detail how the Progress Tests meet each of the DfE assessment principles. Continue reading →

The DfE’s assessment principles

Following publication of their delayed response to the primary assessment and accountability consultation in March, the DfE have now published a set of core assessment principles to help schools prepare to implement new assessment arrangements for tracking pupil progress against the new National Curriculum. The document reminds schools that there will be no national system for doing this, but that schools will be expected to demonstrate (with evidence) their assessment of pupils’ progress so that they can keep parents informed, enable governors to make judgements about the school’s effectiveness and also to inform inspections by Ofsted.

The document states that ‘effective assessment systems’ should:

  1. give reliable information to parents about how their child, and their child’s school, is performing
  2. help drive improvement for pupils and teachers, and
  3. make sure the school is keeping up with external best practice and innovation.

These three principles are then broken down further.

Sue Walton, assessment consultant and part of the Rising Stars Assessment advisory team has examined these carefully and tried to unpick and explain the implications of them for schools (see the comments in italics below).

Note that ‘assessment system’ is not defined. Given what follows, it appears to refer to a school’s complete assessment regime.

  1. Reliable information for parents

This is broken down into four principles:

  1. a) Allow meaningful tracking of pupils towards end of key stage expectations in the new curriculum, including regular feedback to parents.

‘Meaningful’ is not defined but it implies regular assessments are being made and that schools are tracking how pupils are progressing against the Programme of Study for both their year group and the Key Stage. Continue reading →