Every year, around this time, I have to make a ‘final’ decision for year 6 teacher assessments. I assume these are reported out to government somewhere, though they might just go on record and hang about until OFSTED decide to visit and scrutinise everything with their beady eyes. I also say ‘final’ using inverted commas because, whilst this really is the last official piece of assessment I’ll do for the year 6s, there are still 4 weeks left. It’s not truly final… there are 4 weeks left. We don’t just sit and twiddle thumbs in this time – progress can still be made. There are 4 whole weeks left!
This year has been particularly interesting and I find myself scratching my head furiously over this set of assessments, more so than either of the two sets of year 6s I’ve sent off before. Back in September, we had little to no idea how assessment would look at the end of the year. Thankfully, we have a pretty good system in place for their day-to-day assessments, but their final set has to be based off the interim assessments. I link to that not to encourage you to get your head around what a year 6 pupil apparently should know, but out of interest for anyone who wants to see the ridiculousness that is teacher assessment.
Recently, the head of our federated state schools shared his opinion with a local newspaper about the testing of seven year olds. I have to agree. Testing seven year olds won’t improve standards, but learning will.
What was interesting was a letter sent to the newspaper in response to this article, reading:
I can’t have been the only reader to have been shocked by the arrogant rant of head-teacher Steve Woodhouse at a new Government education policy, coupled with his pernicious attack against Nicky Morgan the Education Secretary (Pocklington Post Thurs 12 Nov.) Mr Woodhouse might remember he is a public servant and not some self-appointed Government Strategist and Education Advisor.
The need for the introduction of simple national tests for children as young as seven stems from a basic failure of our education system, and the desire by the Government to rectify it by the elimination of illiteracy and innumeracy in Britain and thus in later years, restoring this country to near-full employment. In 2012, a shocking 44% of pupils failed to secure a GCSE pass in maths and English by the age of 16, and almost half never studied these subjects again afterwards. This is a disgraceful indictment of our education system as it operates today and justifiable reason for the need to change.
Mr Woodhouse assures us that, ‘teachers regularly assess seven-year olds themselves, without the need for any formal testing’. Yet teachers traditionally bleat about large class sizes and thus the impossibility of 1:1 teaching! He assures us that the current system, ‘works very well’ and this is, ‘probably why Nicky Morgan wants to change it’. A disrespectful and ignorant comment and probably the reason why Nicky Morgan has not yet responded to the pearls of wisdom delivered to her in his emails!
He goes on to assure us, in a list, of the many aspects of primary education that tests can’t measure. However, the most, ,thoughtful, creative, honest, confident, kind, loyal, determined compassionate, and intuitive, child is of little use to an employer if they can’t count or spell. Moreover they subsequently become a burden on both themselves and society. The percentage of illiterate and innumerate inmates in our local and dispersal prisons is shocking.
No-one would wish to stifle a teacher’s natural creativity, but this wonderful skill should be firstly channelled into teaching basic numeracy and literacy skills with a follow-up assessment of how successful this has been.
It is not the Government’s intention to impose strict ‘exam conditions’ on children, as Mr Woodhouse asserts. These are simple benign tests designed to highlight those children needing additional training in, maths, reading, grammar and punctuation.
To accuse the education secretary of ‘putting our children at risk’ by imposing an ‘unnecessary burden’ of ‘mindless policies’ and being ‘devoid of compassion’ is contemptuous of both Nicky Morgan and her predecessor Michael’s Gove’s attempts to bring our country back to full employment and prosperity.
I respectfully suggest that Mr Woodhouse’s time (paid for by the tax-payer I would remind him) would be better spent focusing on the educational brief Nicky Morgan has given him, rather than on composing ill-conceived, self-righteous criticisms of Government policies every week for the Pocklington Post.
A. J. Wilson,
Let’s start the fun and begin to pick apart this strange argument for tests – one of few I’ve seen.
Individual fan cards for guided reading. I created something very similar last year and they were part of my guided reading carousel (one group used them to answer a question based on their own reading book). They’re all tied in to the assessment focus which makes using children’s answers as part of assessment easier. They’re colour coded so that the children know they’re different (they don’t need to know about assessment focus) and that they’re supposed to pick a different colour each time so that there’s a good breadth of evidence spanning across different AFs.
This year, I also added a little extra detail to the questions. I found that some of them were a little too vague last year and the kids struggled with understanding what they meant… which wasn’t great considering they should be working individually with these.
I’ve also added numbers. This should make it easier to assess the different answers without having to decipher which question has been answered.
You can download them on TES (in PDF format or word) here.
Recently, heads have been urging the government to slow down the rate of change within schools. An interesting statistic from the NAHT states that 73% of parents think the rate of change within schools is moving too quick, and consequently should be slowed. For what it’s worth, I think change is a good thing (I’ve said it now!).
Lets first consider the National Curriculum change. There seems to be quite a lot of media hype regarding all of the things that have been added in, taken out or swapped. I can only speak from the Primary perspective here but, I don’t think it has changed that much. I mean sure, there’s some things I don’t wholeheartedly agree with… but there was in the old curriculum too. There always will be, I’m sure. Does that mean I can’t tweak it or teach something that’s not in the curriculum anyway? No. So, does it make that much difference to me – not really. I’m relatively confident that with a little bit of careful reading, planning and the ever-present support of colleagues the new curriculum objectives can be delivered effectively and we can cover what is important to the children through, and alongside, this.
Five days ago (I know – it’s taken me a while to get round to posting this), Elizabeth Truss spoke to Reform. In her introduction she spoke about APP and how it hasn’t been a part of the plan for an age and was deemed to be useless by OFSTED in 2010… when I first started university. Four years ago.
So why then am I still using it? OFSTED doesn’t want it. The DfE doesn’t link to it anymore. The school I work in hasn’t continued to use it as an assessment practice. The short answer: university.