Over the last three years schools have approached us after having a variety of bad experiences with their assessment products. Some of these systems are older levels based ‘tracking systems’ which have been redesigned for the post-levels era, and others aren’t meeting the needs of individual school assessment policies.
Given the freedom offered to schools with National Curriculum 2014 there isn’t an ‘off the shelf’ approach to assessment which acts as a silver bullet for schools. Schools we work with are taking the jump to be open minded about their curriculum, assessment and assessment system.
For a long time, through the levels-era, the curriculum was tightly structured and every teacher knew which statements made a 2b or 4b. Now that tick-list security blanket has gone we’re working with schools to define what assessment means to them.
School leaders are having to be open-minded to both the new freedoms on offer and to assessment within their school.
One of the greatest sticking points is the nervousness that it takes time to embed a new assessment system. There is no way around this if you want to ensure your curriculum is fit for purpose for your school. Sometimes your ‘data’ might not look as good as it did in a levels-era but if you’re reflecting on your curriculum and assessment policy, and crucially the roll-out of this across the school, then you’re on the road to success.
As educationalists sometimes we’re not great at recognising bumps in the road as learning opportunities (although Carol Dweck is doing her bit to change this!). Instead we think about overhauling the entirety of our practice for something we think will make all of our children ‘Go Green’ in the context of assessment. When we get into a position where we are throwing out different assessment packages because our ‘data looks bad’ we are also missing a fundamental point. Data is an end point in any assessment package; not a starting point. It doesn’t drive the system, good teaching practice does.
“Ofsted does not expect performance and pupil-tracking information to be presented in a particular format. Such information should be provided to inspectors in the format that the school would ordinarily use to monitor the progress of pupils in that school.”
Ofsted School Inspection Handbook, Revised August 2016
Setting a sustainable foundation for assessment takes time so if you’re embedding a system be confident in explaining that to whoever you report externally to. Most importantly, demonstrate how your children are benefitting from the great practice which goes on inside of the classroom and don’t obsess over data being right on day one.