Teacher helping student with their work, both are smiling

Assessment : A Paradigm Shift?

When we chose to write a blog about assessment, the more we thought about it, the more difficult it became to pin down.

There are so many definitions, and depending upon the source you are examining, the detail changes.

So here are the main ones we hear referred to on a regular basis:

  • Formative assessment
  • Summative assessment
  • Diagnostic assessment
  • Assessment for learning
  • Assessment of learning
  • Statutory assessment
  • Baseline assessment…

…and  linked to these are those references which provide a ‘measurable value’ for example, emerging, expected, exceeding, developing, establishing, enhancing, expected plus, expected minus…..

This is all before we even start talking about national testing and teacher assessment.

In addition we have the challenge of how such assessments are implemented  – formal tests, marking (in all its ineffectual glory), continuous assessment (which was abandoned in some contexts for fear of too much scaffolded support), verbal feedback which in some schools has to be written down and a plethora of other approaches.

Like a chameleon, assessment appears to continually morph and evolve – so what is its current incarnation?

Ofsted have recognised that for too long, schools have been paralysed by data tracking to measure attainment and achievement, and teachers and leaders have spent excessive hours populating spreadsheets and trackers with no real benefit to genuine learning.

The new Education Inspection Framework makes explicit how the focus will now be on how schools use their information they collect as well as being mindful of teacher workload.

There is a clear recognition that primary outcomes have often been based upon surface level knowledge, with a short lifespan which evaporates soon after.

Ofsted’s research identifies that if a school’s curriculum is of sufficient high-quality, then good outcomes will naturally follow as pupils will have genuine knowledge. If a schools curriculum offers sufficient rigour and depth, is based upon the principles of ‘knowing more and remembering more’, is carefully sequenced and uses low-stakes testing as a core tool for learning , then outcomes will inevitably improve.

It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that the Key Stage 1 and 2 tests and teacher assessment frameworks are an end point – a culmination of the components that have gone before; the outcomes upon which schools are measured. Statutory assessment can only ever measure a small slice of a child’s full experience – so make sure the curriculum is the driver and not the tests.

Understanding the entirety of the statutory assessment process, including tests, teacher assessment and moderation, is essential.

Statutory Assessment is your responsibility

Statutory assessment, to uphold and secure national standards, is a whole school responsibility – not something that is easily delegated to one or two key people within a school (and definitely not just the Year 2 and Year 6 teachers!).

After all, the headteacher is responsible for signing the relevant declarations at the end of the process – so we need to be sure that what is happening in school is watertight.

Although there are no major changes to statutory assessment for either key stage this year, it is still critical that we have a shared clarity and understanding about the purposes and processes involved and opportunity  to dispel some of the Chinese whispers and rumours that still prevail.

Nothing can beat a face-to-face update from those leading the statutory assessment process, as this enables clear messages to be given; myths to be dispelled and explicit support for those new to year 2 and 6.

Such updates also offer the opportunity to revisit key learning from previous years’ moderation and test cycles and to network with colleagues from a wide range of schools.

If assessment and curriculum matter to you and to your team, then take a look at our website to find out how we can help you.

In the meantime, here are our top tips:

7 Top Tips to Help You With Assessment

  1. Familiarise yourself with key documents – ARA and Teacher Assessment Guidance
  2. Read the new EIF (Education Inspection Framework) – there are references to assessment in there
  3. Get to know about Intent, Implementation and Impact to support both curriculum and assessment
  4. Progress is identified as ‘knowing more and remembering more’ so explore cognitive science
  5. Investigate what ‘low stakes’ testing actually means and the benefits: The Power Of Testing
  6. For subject leaders, understand what assessment for their subject looks like
  7. Don’t work in isolation – assessment is a whole-school mind set

Summary

If you take one thing from this blog post, it should be that assessment is a whole-school mind set. It isn’t advisable to delegate to one of two key people within a school.

If you would like more information and advice about Statutory Assessment, please visit our dedicated Assessment page. Here you will find a collection of resources, information and courses that can support you in this area. Or feel free to contact us at hello@servicesforeducation.co.uk or call us on 0121 366 9950.

Statutory Assessment Updates

As you’re probably already aware, STA recently publicised some of the key 2019/20 assessment documents for EYFS, KS1 and KS2 – if you haven’t done so already, its a good idea to share them with appropriate staff at your school. You can find a list of the updated documents here.

Also, be sure to look out for further publications set out in the STA calendar – we recommend you display these in a prominent place like the staffroom to ensure everyone is aware of statutory deadlines.

Finally, it’s a good idea to update your details as necessary on ‘Get information about schools’ via DfE Sign-in since this is where STA gets its information from to deliver test materials.

The national curriculum assessments helpline is 0300 303 3013 or you can contact us at SFE on 0121 366 9950 and ask for Denise Harris or Serena Caine (EYFS).