Let’s be honest, there are two types of assessment: the type that helps you teach and the type that keeps the ‘Powers That Be’ happy.
The former – often classed as formative assessment – lets you know how your pupils are doing and allows you to adjust your teaching as you go along. It feels more real, more positive, more nurturing. Traditionally, the latter is the mark by which they and you will be judged. It is high-stakes and, arguably, artificial, dependent on how each child is able to perform on that day.
The advent of the Teacher Assessment Framework (TAF) provided something of a bridge between those extremes. It is still statutory assessment yet it also provides opportunities to help your pupils demonstrate what you know in your hearts is their true ability. Here are some ideas to help you make them work in your favour at in Key Stage 1.
Primary assessment – don’t be squeamish
As honest and principled teachers, you might already have some alarm bells going off in your heads. “… make them work in your favour …” – but isn’t that cheating?
No, it is not. Working within the assessment system is the teaching equivalent of brushing your hair or putting on clean clothes before you go out – it might not be noticed if you do, but it certainly will stand out in comparison with everyone else if you don’t.
Teacher Assessment Framework
Knowing that we still have some SATs, you might be tempted to ask what is the teacher assessment framework and why do we need it? Essentially, it is a tool for supporting teacher assessment at the end of a key stage by focusing on certain key aspects of core subjects such as English. It consists of a number of ‘I can …’ statements for which pupils, through their work, have to show that they really ‘can’. Depending on how many of these you can tick off, they will show whether your pupil is working towards or working at the expected standard, or even working at greater depth within the expected standard.
There are various provisos governing what counts as evidence, so you will need to look up the official guidance. The main thing, however, is that the evidence is harvested from independent work, so there is no chance of manufacturing better-than-deserved outcomes.
Primary school teachers: Keep teaching
As the ‘Powers That Be’ are at pains to point out, this statutory framework does not cover all the requirements of the National Curriculum, so you can continue to enjoy giving your pupils a broad education. Nor does it replace your school’s existing assessment policy and the way you communicate pupils’ progress across the full curriculum to their parents and carers.
Cross-curricular National Curriculum assessment
You are also expected to provide evidence for the English statements from work produced across a range of subjects – not just English – and we can help you there. Through our range of Key Stage 1 assessment resources, we offer a variety of pre-planned units that build towards a framework-friendly piece of writing in a variety of subject areas including Science, History, Geography and even PE. Covering topics from the Great Fire of London to living things and habitats, they are an excellent way to produce work that can be directly assessed against the Year 2 TAF.
Moderation – teacher assessment judgements
Although the TAF is there to help teachers make their own assessment judgments, they play a key role in moderation. If your school is one of the 25% earmarked for moderation each year, you will be expected to be able to produce evidence against the TAFs on demand, so it is well worth keeping tabs on how well your pupils are progressing against each of the statements. We offer a comprehensive set of pupil progress tracking sheets, covering a variety of ability starting points as well as special sheets for groups such as SEND and disadvantaged pupils.
Putting learning to the test – I know they know this!
You might also want to find a way to record where the best evidence is for each statement, especially if you recognise the following scenario… You know that Pupil A understands how to use punctuation mark B. They have explained it to you and they have shown understanding through class discussions. However, when you come to scan her books for examples in independent writing activities, it’s just not there. It’s not that it’s been missed when she had the chance. For some reason, the way she has worded every single text has simply bypassed the need for that punctuation mark, entirely legitimately. These are the situations in which you need to nudge the fates in your favour. That’s where you might need to play the game…
Playing the game
Using your tracking system, you should be able to see easily where your pupils have met the standard you expect of them and where they are still lacking the evidence. This is when you might need to take more direct action. Once again, our writing assessment resource packs mentioned earlier can help here. In addition, you could try planning an independent writing task that is likely to yield the evidence you need. Short of command sentences? Get your pupils to write a set of instructions. Need to see some exclamation sentences? An informal letter or personal recount might do the trick.
Teacher assessment data – subtle nudges
Self-assessment can also help in these situations. If you provide grids of success criteria for specific pieces of work and give them a chance to rate their own work, you can bet that your pupils will try extra hard to include examples of all the goals and targets shown.
Ultimately the guiding principle here must be to think ahead and be prepared. Gearing your assessment strategies to take account of the TAF can make your job so much easier when it comes to completing your formal assessments. Hopefully, we’ve given you some ideas to help ensure your teaching practice is seen to make the grade.