The work necessary to complete Teacher Assessment in June is laughably unrealistic and will destroy teachers.

As we hit the half way point in the year, I’ve begun to think more purposively about the end of year expectations for KS1. As head of year two this year, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the interim assessment materials that have (or conspicuously haven’t) been appearing on the DfE website.

I must admit that there is a certain comfort in having statutory assessment standards. Without getting into a debate around when and how we should be assessing kids in primary (my tongue in cheek thoughts on that subject are here), it simplifies things massively to simply work against a checklist that has been handed down by the government.

Last year, as a year 6 teacher, I happily highlighted APP grids throughout the year, gaining a picture of exactly what a child had shown they could do in some piece of work or another, and what they still had to achieve to meet the next sub-level threshold. I’d select those gaps (say, ‘using adverb openers’) and add it to a target list in the front of the child’s book, so that they could do that in the next session(s) and I could highlight it off.

This practice, which was common across primary schools, was one reason that levels were abolished. We were all falling victim to Goodhart’s Law: when a measure becomes a target, it fails to become a good measure.

Learning from their mistakes, the guidance that accompanies the Interim Assessment Framework for KS1 states clearly that

“Individual pieces of work should be assessed according to a school’s assessment policy and not against this interim framework.”  

and

This statutory interim framework is to be used only to make a teacher assessment judgement at the end of the key stage following the completion of the key stage 1 curriculum. It is not intended to be used to track progress throughout the key stage. (my emphasis)

Best practice, then, would involve a teacher not even seeing the framework until the data submission deadline, at which point they would review “a broad range of evidence from across the curriculum for each pupil,” which includes the score attained in the SATS.

This is just what we will do, then, I thought to myself. We’ll follow the guidance and make our judgements at the end of the year, drawing on a broad range of evidence and checking each of the statements in reading, writing, maths and science has been met.

Then it struck me just what this meant:

Let’s start with a class teacher taking one pupil. They will need to take out all of their work for the year, and then take out the interim framework to check that each statement has been met.

For Reading, this means:

6 statements in the Working Towards the Expected Standard section (which must all be met to gain working at)

7 statements in the Working at the Expected Standard section

(with the possibility of 3 statements Working at Greater Depth)

Cumulative Judgement Count: 13-16

For Writing, this means

6 Statements WTES

12 Statements WAES

(and possibly a further 5 statements for WGD)

Cumulative Judgement Count: 31-39

For Maths, this means:

7 Statements WTES

11 Statements WAES

(and possibly a further 11 statements WGD)

Cumulative Judgement Count: 49-68

For science, this means:

12 Statements WAES

Cumulative Judgement Count: 62-80

So, for each child, a teacher will need to make a minimum of 62 judgements, with the possibility of 80 judgements if you have a high flying class (which you should).

Now obviously, most teachers have 30 children. That means that each teacher needs to make 62 x 30 judgements, or 1,860 judgements, rising to 2,4oo judgements if you have a high flying class.

Each of those judgements should be arrived at considering a broad range of evidence. And they should only be made at the end of the school year, once Key Stage 1 is finished. And clearly they can’t be spread out, or some children would be unfairly advantaged (since they’d have more time to produce work that meets the statements of the standard.

Let’s suppose that each judgement takes just 2 minutes (which would hardly allow enough time for a sound judgement, considering a broad range of evidence), that means 4,800 minutes (or 80 hours) of assessing in the final week before data submission. This is before we’ve moderated across classes. And obviously during that time we’ll still need to plan, resource, mark and teach as usual.

So my question to the Standards and Testing Agency and the Department for Education is this: when will I be allowed to sleep?

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9 comments

  1. I suggest that you write a formal letter to ask the DfE for their ‘time management study’ to demonstrate how they expect Year 2 teachers to conduct their assessment realistically.

    I have been making that same suggestion for years when decades ago the education department first brought in their umpteen national curriculum folders – and so it goes on.

    I did the maths years ago for my, then, headteacher to demonstrate that the tick-box assessments that were ‘published’ in assessment booklets at that time, would take me a huge amount of hours to complete.

    The other side to that is the hardened teacher who just makes a quick judgement not really digging deep to see how accurate they are.

    I think teachers make a grave mistake when they object to national written comprehension ‘tests’ instead of teacher-assessments.

    Teacher assessments are enormously time-consuming, can cause great angst when the teacher tries to be truly accurate and fair, and moderation is time-consuming and always open to subjectivity of some description.

  2. By the way, I also did my fair share of writing about and trying to draw attention to, the onerous ‘post-its’ culture brought out in the Early Years Foundation Stage which was a logistical nightmare, totally unnecessary, and yet heralded as ‘best practice’ to be moved up into Key Stage One.

    What advisors and influential people seem to fail to do is to distinguish well enough between the content/detail that is helpful to train teachers and practitioners isn’t necessarily the same content/detail that should then be used as a national accountability tool for assessing children.

    This ‘time management’ issue is at the heart of so much that is wrong in education today – the mismatch between the expectation/demand and the reality of the ‘doing’ – be it for national accountability or even just the delivery in the classroom.

    If teacher-bloggers have any sense, they would very professionally present this information to the Department for Education presented as a request for the ‘time management’ expectation.

    So, if teacher-bloggers can find the time to highlight the practical problems via their blogs, I suggest that they should find the time to further their observations and comments to the DfE.

    This might benefit the entire teaching profession, even if it takes some time for this issue to filter through.

    These are exciting times in Education because ‘bloggers’ are making a difference!

  3. I wrote this, for example, back in 2004 – see link below:

    “And whilst the DfES fails to withdraw the Foundation Stage Profile, the teachers and pre-school practitioners are expected to struggle along spending a huge amount of time and energy on an exercise recognised as futile (pre-school practitioners often being paid only a few pounds an hour for the hours a week that they are with the children)? The Ofsted report stated, “In general, completing the Profile (but not written comments) seemed to require between 60 and 90 minutes, once teachers became accustomed to it”. And this is acceptable? A colleague of mine returned from a recent LEA Foundation Stage Profile training session in disbelief. She worked out that the 13 areas outlined in the Profile multiplied by the 8 early learning goals in each area needing at least one detailed observation/comment amounted to 104 written comments per child. Multiply this by 20 children and you would need at least 2,080 comments. Some Foundation Stage settings have much higher numbers of children than 20 and very often they are in the private/community sector where there are no salaried professionals to take on such an arduous task. I am incredulous! Despite this clear criticism from Ofsted, will the LEAs choose to support the DfES in its persistence, or the teachers in their resistance? This fiasco is so typical of the type of demands placed on teachers nowadays is it any wonder that they are leaving full-time employment in significant numbers and instances of absence from stress grow daily? The job is increasingly unmanageable and practitioners are placed on automatic failure mode through the sheer impossibility of fulfilling current bureaucratic demands.”

    By the way, the Early Years accountability system was much worse than the figures here because classes could be up to 30, and also, some settings had ‘morning children’ and ‘afternoon children’ so potentially double these numbers. Why was this ever considered necessary, acceptable, realistic, doable? Why did any advisors accept this state of affairs?

    http://www.rrf.org.uk/archive.php?n_ID=44&n_issueNumber=52

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