I recently received an invitation to chair the Westminster Insight forum in London on the assessment reform in our Primary schools. At first, I felt a little unsure; the word ‘baseline’ was being muttered on everyone’s lips in the staffroom, and I wondered if this could end up being a rather fiery forum to have to control. I realised, however, that the main reason so many teachers and parents - as well as fellow lecturers in the Teacher Education Department - seem so concerned about the new baseline testing for Reception is that there is still much ambiguity about how the testing will be done.
One of the defining characteristics of successful schools is how they deliver assessment. How effective a school is at assessment goes a long way to determining how they are perceived by parents and other stakeholders. Assessment is mission-critical in the constant drive for “school improvement”, a buzz-phrase has now become a key strategy outcome for school leaders.
Reading is incredibly important in supporting students’ overall growth. It’s a predictor of success in further education and life, with achievement in Mathematics and reading significantly associated with academic motivation and quality of life. So it is understandable that education policy largely focuses on developing strong readers at an early age. With that focus comes assessment requirements that can be confusing to parents and exhausting to educators. How do we communicate the value of assessments and the importance of data they return?
I bet children will be cursing every day this month, if only about having to take exams and needing to revise for them. Exams are often seen as a necessary evil to be able to assess what children have learned throughout the year. However, exams imply marking, and for time-poor teachers of big classes, it can quickly become a nightmare. So what to do?
If you are reading this, you are no doubt privy to the expectations heaped on teachers and school leaders about the importance of feedback in driving student success. If you hear the word “feedback”, and are haunted by images of lengthy, scribed comments that go ignored, much to your distress (how many hours of your life that you won’t get back?) and to the student’s peril, you are not alone.
Over the past five years, I have had some big changes in my life: I became a dad for the first time; I left my position as a Primary school deputy headteacher; I became an SLE in formative assessment; I set up my own education company with my headteacher... These changes were all massive, but the thing that has made them manageable for me was the smaller, more marginal changes I could make, all of which which contributed to the bigger picture.