Is it time to plan some New Year’s resolutions?

In our recent Have you embraced your new found freedom? blog we talked about the opportunity that schools have been given to do what’s best for their students, and not just carry on with what you think others want; a sentiment that fits well with the idea of a new year’s resolution. So as we enter into 2017, you could think about what you’re doing in terms of assessment and consider: Are there things you could stop doing? What good practice do you want to retain? Are there new things you should start doing that you think would benefit your school?

Fear of external judgement causes a lot of us to think we have to carry out assessment and tracking in a certain way because that’s the way it’s always been done and that’s what “they” expect; “they” in many cases being Ofsted. So let’s review the Ofsted Myths page on the DfE website and look at what Ofsted says inspectors want from you. How does this marry up with what you actually want from your assessment data?

“Inspectors are interested in the effectiveness of planning rather than the form it takes.”

So Ofsted’s only interest in your planning is that it’s “effective”. That means that rather than using time completing unnecessarily detailed planning pro-formas, you can focus on the things that make your planning really impact on pupils. Formative assessment can provide the bedrock for good planning as it helps you identify who needs to learn what and how we can really move students on in their learning.

Classroom Monitor has some crucial tools to help you make your planning effective. Re-ordering the markbook and Curriculum Tracking can help you identify the objectives you need to work on. Viewing only the strands that you’re currently planning for means that you can keep focus and access objective-level data from previous ability levels. And you aren’t starting from a clean slate with your pupils.

“Ofsted will take a range of evidence into account when making judgements, including … work in pupils’ books and folders, including that held in electronic form. However, unnecessary or extensive collections of marked pupils’ work are not required for inspection.”

If you’re spending time photocopying children’s work or printing it out and organising it into folders, it seems that this time can easily be saved. Ofsted says that they’re happy to look in books, folders and even evidence in electronic format. So the key thing for teachers is knowing where that evidence is rather than spending time collating it.

What you could start doing differently? We often think of evidence as something we collate to demonstrate achievements to others, however evidence of what pupils can’t do can also be really valuable for informing your planning and pupils’ progress.

Classroom Monitor allows users to attach evidence to markbook assessments using either their browser, or the quick and easy app. Evidence can take the form of notes, images, video clips, audio clips or an uploaded file- whichever format it comes in. The Learning Journey can then be used to output written and photographic evidence for whoever you want to share it with or all types of evidence can be shared via online reporting to parents.

“Ofsted does not expect performance and pupil-tracking information to be presented in a particular format. Such information should be provided to inspectors in the format that the school would ordinarily use to monitor the progress of pupils in that school.”

The start and end point for your tracking should be what’s useful to you in your school, and useful tracking will always inform teaching and learning. Before you start number crunching and copying and pasting to get data into that specific template (or set of templates) that you’ve been using for years, take a step back and make sure that the extra effort is actually going to benefit your pupils. All Ofsted wants to know is that you’re monitoring the progress of your pupils and that this information is being used to identify areas for development.

So rather than just going with what you’ve always tracked, there are some key questions you can ask yourself in relation to your tracking:

• Do you need to cut your data into all of those groups? The updated homepage favourites allow you to keep an eye on progress and attainment for key sub-groups in school without having to do detailed analysis. There may still be other groups that are important to track in your setting and you can use the tools in Group tracking to create analyses and save them as favourites to help with this; but make sure these are necessary and you aren’t just creating extra work for yourself. In our Turning the Deficit Model into the Achievement Model blog, we talked about how you might change your thinking about tracking different sub-groups to make sure that your tracking really impacts on teaching and learning.

• How often do you need to collate the data? As we can see from the quote above, there are no expectations in terms of how often you’re tracking your pupils as long as you are doing it! Class teachers who are using the markbooks regularly to record pupils achievements are constantly monitoring this progress, identifying gaps in learning and moving pupils on through next steps. How often this data is collated together at a higher level needs to be informed by the actions you’re going to take as a result of it; this might be for termly pupil progress meetings or for planning whole school interventions. Not just because you think Ofsted will want to see that you’ve collected it every x weeks.

• Does the data need to be put into that particular tracker? The fact you’ve always had those particular rows and columns in your tracker (or set of trackers) shouldn’t be the only reason you continue to use them. Remember, Ofsted don’t have any particular expectations so you’ve got the freedom to use any format that works best for you. That should mean a format that requires as little time and effort as possible from teachers and SLT whilst providing the useful information that can be used to impact on teaching and learning.

Remember that Classroom Monitor provides a number of different graphs and tables that don’t require you to cut, paste, number crunch and print things out. The homepage favourites will give you much of the overview data that you need, and over the coming year we’ll be developing this area further to meet more of your needs with the non-linear curriculums that most of our schools are using. Group Tracking, Pupil Tracking and Curriculum Tracking provide a range of further tables and graphs to support you in using your data to impact on your pupils.

We wish you and your school every success for 2017, and hope that our blogs this year have given you a fresh perspective on data, assessment and progress. Have a lovely break, and see you in January!

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