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2017-18 sees further revisions to the KS1 and 2 teacher assessment frameworks (no longer ‘interim’); specifically, some changes to the writing frameworks which have generally been welcomed by teachers. The first, a greater emphasis on writing composition, better reflects the National Curriculum’s aim that primary children should be able to ‘write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences.’ There are, of course, statements in the frameworks relating to the more technical aspects of writing (grammar, punctuation and spelling) which underpin composition, but these are less prescriptive and hopefully, this year, we will see less writing where specific features, such as an exclamation mark or semi-colon, have been ‘shoe-horned’ in. The revised writing assessment frameworks feel more evenly balanced and will now provide a better assessment tool against which to judge how well pupils write and communicate with others. Nonetheless, there is still an imperative need to ensure that the technical aspects of writing mentioned above (and those that aid fluency such as spelling and handwriting) continue to be taught well as, without them, writers do not have the tools to write effectively.
The second change to the writing assessment frameworks (and it is important to remember this does not apply to reading or mathematics) is the introduction of a more flexible approach. When the revised frameworks were published, there was some suggestion on social media that this represented a return to a ‘best-fit’ approach to assessing writing: this is categorically not the case. The frameworks are clear about this:
‘A pupil’s writing should meet all the highlighted statements within the standard at which they are judged. However, teachers can use their discretion to ensure that, on occasion, a particular weakness does not prevent an accurate judgement being made of a pupil’s attainment overall. A particular weakness could relate to a part or the whole of a statement (or statements), if there is good reason to judge that it would prevent an accurate judgement being made.’
This change is also welcome but will need to be clearly understood by all. The expectation is that, if a child is judged to be at a standard but has a particular weakness, then this will be an exception to their performance overall. The best way to ensure that this flexibility is understood in a consistent manner is through regular opportunities for moderation and professional discussion.
Beyond this academic year, there will be further changes – both to the teacher assessment frameworks (reading, mathematics and science) and to the wider assessment landscape. In September, the government published its responses to the consultations on primary assessment and the Rochford review. Some of these changes will be welcome but there are others which will engender mixed feelings. The primary assessment debate is going to continue for some time yet.
In terms of the local contribution to the assessment landscape, Croydon LA, Octavo’s School Improvement Team and school colleagues collaborated earlier this year to produce a suite of tools supporting the assessment and monitoring of pupil progress, including materials entitled ‘Bridging the gap between p8 and the national curriculum.’ Until the pre-key stage standards are extended in 2019 in order to replace p-scales, the ‘bridging the gap materials’ are a helpful resource for schools. This suite of tools is available on the Croydon SENCO portal.