Educational leadership & learning

Archive for the ‘Assessment’ Category

Top 5 posts of 2016

Below is a list of the most popular posts on my blog during 2016.

#teacher5aday #wintercalendar

My December contribution with @vivgrant to @MatrynReah’s important Teacher Wellbeing initiaive.

Assessment Journeys 2016

The principles and processes behind our school’s developing Assessment practices, whihc aim to focus securely on the learners and making it useful and manageable for teachers.

Learning First

My thoughts about the conference I attended in September orgainsed by @AlisonMPeacock and @JuleLilly to focus on Assessment Beyond Levels.

TLT 16

A summary of the thoughts shared by a range of speakers at this year’s event in September at Southampton University.

Big Ideas in Primary Maths

A summary of our staff’s professional learning and development from a day with @mikeaskew26. Thought provoking, insightful and highly helpful.


KS1 ARA summaries 2017

To ensure our staff have easy access to the key points from the Assessment and Reporting Arrangements for KS1 and Phonics for the academic year 2016-2017 I have produced short summaries of the key points.

These are not creative originals, merely cut and paste from the DfE document.

However they may save colleagues in other schools some time.




Learning First for all

A fabulous event of professional networking, learning, sharing of ideas and experiences took place on Thursday 22 September at Bath Spa University. #LearningFirst: created, developed and organised superbly by tireless and inspiring @AlisonMPeacock and @JulesLilly.

A day to listen to nationally recognised keynote speakers. To learn and interact with ten colleagues sharing the experiences and journey in changing assessment practice within their schools (apologies that not everyone is mentioned within this blog). To have time to sit and reflect on the key purposes and principles of assessment, to ensure the practice in our schools is as effective, useful and manageable as it can be.

The needs of the learners and the value for the learning journey should always be the key driver for any time spent on, action about or system for assessment. Too often we can over-complicate practice and approaches in education, but by keeping practices and approaches simple and applying them intelligently and regularly, we can help our learners succeed.

I don’t think there is a single system that would work everywhere. However I think if staff are involved in creating a purposeful and useful system, they will believe in it, buy into it and drive it together to make it successful.


  1. Tim Oates.

“It’s always about the quality of the learning, curriculum & assessment, whatever the school structure.”

The new National Curriculum has brought more than just a change in the content, although that is what Tim believes many schools have focused on. It has brought a different approach to Teaching, Learning and Assessment. Different ways of looking at learning sustainably and of aiming for higher equity and attainment for all learners. Assessment should be used at all stages within a learning journey to check if learners understand key concepts in subjects before moving forward. The most important purpose of assessment should be the detailed understanding of every learner to identify and  support the filling of gaps and enrichment of the learning journey.

Tim still talks passionately about the curriculum encompassing “fewer things in greater depth”, which is still a challenge for us at our school. Particularly in maths, the tension between coverage of the objectives within one year’s curriculum versus the genuine need to explore concepts at a slower pace to ensure secure understanding is complex and at times very frustrating.


2. Mary Myatt (@MaryMyatt)

I had not met or heard Mary speak before, and was very much looking forward to her presentation. I wasn’t disappointed.

“Keep the main thing the main thing” (a focus on teaching and learning)

Mary encouraged colleagues to take some risks, to not interrupt the pupils when they were struggling as this was the point of new learning, that numbers (data) are not king, and that there is a difference between a task and learning (something we have been challenging ourselves with regularly at our school). She also discussed the importance of listening in on pupils’ conversations during learning discussions: that this more than tests or books is the prime source of evidence to demonstrate understanding. We need to demand difficult thinking and learning from our pupils, if we are to move below a superficial level of recall and regurgitation.

We need to be open about concepts of attainment and move away from old ideas about grouping by fixed ability.

“We put serious limits on our children when we label them.”


3. Chris Chivers (@ChrisChiver2)

Chris continued from Mary by talking about how valuable information about our pupils is. That the better we know them as learners the more effective we can be as teachers.

“Relying on the hard evidence of assessment to really know our children, not relying on assumptions.”

Assessment is essentially about knowing your pupils, being clear about what they need to learn and then helping them to do it: which results in continuity and progression, as opposed to discontinuity and regression. Chris referenced the importance of Teacher Standards 5 and 6 in ensuring that every lesson should help you to know the pupils better as learners. Chris finished his presentation with the following quote from George Bernard Shaw:



4. Richard Lucas and Jane Thorton

Richard is headteacher at Uplands Primary and Jane the headteacher of the secondary who receives some of the Year 7s from Richard’s school (among 39 other primary providers!). They discussed the importance of honest sharing of detailed information and open conversations between colleagues to ensure transition was successful. The two schools had created an agreed set of Y6/Y7 standards, and had come up with novel idea of giving Y6s a ‘summer gift’, which was an open-ended opportunity to share with their new teachers something a piece of work they were proud of.


5. Carolyn Robson

Carolyn spoke passionately about giving every child every opportunity to learn and exceed their potential, by not capping their progress by our beliefs of their potential based on prior data.

“Everyone is born with extraordinary powers & possibilities.”

And as teachers we are in a very privileged position to nurture those possibilities.


6. Jim Dees and Ian Bennett

Jim and Ian discussed how they had developed Research Lesson Studies at West Lodge Primary, which as a “developmental not judgemental” process had harnessed the power of formative assessment within an active learning staff culture. Observers focused on the learners and their learning. The quality of pupils’ talk and importance of modelling were two aspects that had been discovered as very important. Staff reflectiveness and the richness of professional dialogue had increased through the process.


7. Ed Finch (@MrEFinch)

Ed spoke passionately, openly and entertaingly about how his school were developing pupil created reports. By keeping the children at the heart and giving them a genuine voice (even if one child wrote “I detest English”) it added to the assessment information they could discover about their pupils. Another colleague listening suggested using ongoing learning logs to help the pupils reflect on their learning in their final reports.


8. Simon Cowley (@SiCowley)

Simon explained how in the White Horse Federation assessment was definitely not just all about the data. It is important to listen to the learners and have in depth professional conversations about their wider aptitudes and strengths. He shared the “The Intelligence of the child Toolkit” graphic below.


They use exemplification materials to support their assessment, have introduced same day interventions and view Pupil Progress meetings as validating teachers’ judgements. Staff come to those meetings with provision maps for those learners who have gaps, but it is the detailed information that is effective because as a school they believe that “my worth will not be dictated by a number!”


9. Ruchi Sabharwal (@Missvintagepink)

Ruchi spoke enthusiastically and with great authenticity about how she had developed SOLO within her classroom as part of cultivating a meta-cognitive ethos. Within a lesson learners can move from Uni-Structural to Multi-structural, and then to Relational and perhaps Extended Abstract. The power came from the pupils challenging themselves and seeing that their learning journey might not be complete even if their task was. SOLO gave the class a shared language and developed them further as a shared community of learners.



10. Nicky Bridges (@Mrs_Rob_Says)

Nicky is Deputy at Robin Hood in Nottingham. She shared some fantastic brick wall styled overviews of the curriculum for each year group. These are shared with parents and also the learners who are able to self-assess their progress and attainment across the year. They have also started to create assessment portfolios of pupils’ work to reference against in future years.


11. James Pembroke (@jpembroke)

James pulled no punches in his criticism of systems which gave hierarchy towards data, particularly those that had been created with crowbars within the algorithms to evidence progress. The questions James thinks we should ask are:

  • Is this data meaningful?
  • Is this data accurate and valid?
  • Is this data useful?
  • Who is this data for and how will it be used?

As teachers we should be able to show / demonstrate progress through the pupils’ work. The Ofsted Framework requires schools to monitor and track progress, but not to measure it. James explained that linear progress is a fallacy, and that research shows that only 10% of pupils follow a linear attainment path from YR to Y11.

“A healthy system has numbers going down as well as up. Chasing numerical progress risks exploring at depth.”

Often we insist on having more and more data. But actually for learning less is often more. Too much data can be unnecessary, a burden and actually slow us down.


12. Sarah Earle (@PriSciEarle)

The host of the event spoke about the projects she is undertaking with many schools exploring assessment in primary science, although the findings can be used across the whole curriculum. Sarah asks the following questions about assessment information: is it reliable / manageable / valid / consistent? Importantly is assessment doing what we want it to?

Her research is showing that pupils being active partners within an assessment process is highly beneficial, that teachers need to be responsive to the learners and develop a shared understanding of assessment. Sarah would welcome other primary schools who would like to be involved in future research projects at the Bath Spa University.


13. Sean Harford (@HarfordSean) (Director of Ofsted)

I had an opportunity to talk with Sean and Lisa Harford at lunchtime. They were both lovely, open and genuinely pleased to here about our school’s journey and development. Sean is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why Ofsted have improved their reputation with some within the profession, as he is always keen to work in partnership and learn together. Today was not exception.

Sean started by explaining that he was at the conference to listen, as it was not helpful for Ofsted to tell the profession how to assessment or what system to use. He said that he was (as he often is) heartened by the passion and commitment of staff working in our schools. He insisted that we should use what works for us.

He fed back key messages he had heard during the day:

  • Professional discussion at a granularity level was better for the pupils and their learning
  • That it was really about the curriculum and we should always come back to that
  • How do we use assessment information, and the greater freedoms we have been given, to make learning better.


14. Dame Alison Peacock (@AlisonMPeacock)

Alison closed the conference by thanking those who had presented and shared so generously during the course of the day. She also thanked Julie (@JuleLilly) for all her hard work in organising such a successful and smoothly run event.

Finally she encouraged everyone present to keep networking, to keep sharing and to keep developing and improving together for the benefit of the learners.


After the day concluded I was fortunate to have really interesting and valuable conversations with many colleagues. One was Chris (@ChrisChivers2) and a summary of our conversation can be read at:

Chris Chivers (Talks)


Trending phrases for me from the day were:

Validation. Professional dialogue. Trust. CPD. Inform. Impact. Learning behaviours.

Know the learners better.


Personally I think the present and future of our education system is bright.

(But that’s just my assessment).





Embedded Formative Assessment

I found this book by Dylan Wiliam (@DylanWiliam) a very interesting read this summer. Although it was published in 2011, it still makes many strong and well argued points.

Below is my summary of these I am sharing with my staff in September. I hope you find it useful.

Embedded Formative Assessment


Pupil Conferencing questions

The key impact of everything we do in school should be on the pupils: their welfare, character, learning, achievement and understanding.

I have been reflecting on the questions that I ask of pupils when on learning walks or looking at books together and considering how these link to our school’s “Teaching for Learning Foundations” and also how they fit with book monitoring, learning walks, lesson observations and pupil achievement discussions in evidencing progress towards ARE for each year group.

Sometimes these conversations can feel rather formulaic, or I realise I am asking the same few questions of many pupils. I have asked a question of colleagues on Twitter to see the range of questions other teachers use and to broaden and improve my repertoire.

Currently this is my range of questions to select from.



What are learning today? What are you learning that is new? Why are you learning it? (Learning Aim)

How has your teacher helped you to be clear about what you are learning?

How does this learning to link to other learning you’ve done before today?

How do you know if you’re being successful at this learning / task? What in particular are you trying to improve today? (Success Criteria)

What would you do if you were stuck? (Class culture / Learning environment & Walls)

How are the adults / other children / resources / displays helping your learning in this session?

How tricky is this learning for you? (Challenge)

What questions has your teacher asked in this session? How have they helped your thinking?



Focus in on a specific piece, and start discussion with an open agenda (individually / groups)

Show me something you are proud of in your book? Tell me about why you are proud?

Show me something you struggled with in your book? How did you get better at this? How were you helped? Do you still understand it now? (Mastery)

Can you show me some examples of when the teacher’s feedback has helped you understand or get better at your learning?

Which comments / feedback do you find most helpful in improving your learning or work?

If we look at the first few pages and the last few pages, what do you think you’ve got better at? Can you show me examples?

What targets are you aiming to get better at? Can you show me some examples of how you are improving / being helped?

How do you let the teacher know how well you think you’ve done with your learning / task? Can you show me an example? (Continuous Diagnostic Assessment)



What do you think you are really good at?

What do you find hard to do? / What do you find a bit tricky? Can you think of anything that would help you with this? (Challenge)

Can you think of something that used to be really hard but is now much easier? (Mastery)

What do you enjoy learning and why?

When do you get to make choices in what you learn about or how you learn? Can you give some examples? (Independence / pupil partnership)

How do Learning Partners help you? Can you give an example? (Discuss and reflect)

Do you know how to improve in your learning /activities / work? (What and how do you know?)

What sorts of things does your teacher do or say in most sessions? What other things often happen?

What do you think makes someone a ‘Great Learner’?


Teaching, Learning and Assessment Workshop

With all the changes to curriculum and assessment over the past 18 months it is unsurprising that not all of our governors and parents are fully aware of the implications and developments we have undertaken as a school. To be fair, this is mainly because we as a school are still developing our understanding and practice.

However for governors to be able to effectively fulfil their role of support and challenge on a range of aspects of our work, including pupil data, and for parents to understand why we approaching teaching and learning differently and reporting progress and attainment differently, we felt that next term would be a good time to share what we know so far.

I am leading a workshop for governors early in January and parents in February. The Powerpoint presentation for the Parents Workshop is attached.

Teaching, Learning and Assessment Workshop

If you would like to use or adapt this please feel free to do so. If you have any feedback for me it would be much appreciated.

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