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Back in October last year, Justine Greening published a written statement which contained many welcome announcements about statutory assessment whilst also recognising a ‘need to now set out a longer term, sustainable approach’. It promised no changes to statutory assessment this year, but did set out a(nother) consultation on primary assessment and accountability to launch in early 2017.

Ahead of this government consultation, the NAHT’s Assessment Review Group (ARG) has recently published its report, which makes for an interesting read. This group was set up amid the chaos around the National Curriculum tests in Summer 2016 to formulate some constructive proposals to help shape discussions around the future of the primary assessment system.

In the foreword to the ARG report, titled Redressing the Balance, the group makes it very clear how important they think assessment is to teachers, pupils and parents:

‘Assessment is at the heart of high quality teaching and learning…assessment helps teachers to teach and pupils to learn.’

However, their view is that this has become somewhat distorted in a system where assessment is so tied up with accountability that it loses its inherent value. The danger is that assessment is thought of only in regard to the high-stakes statutory assessment hoops that need to be jumped through rather than something that can enhance learning for all pupils in a school.

At the heart of the ARG report are 6 guiding principles of assessment:

  1. Assessment is at the core of good teaching and learning
  2. Statutory assessment should be separated from ongoing assessment that happens in the classroom
  3. Data from statutory assessment will never tell you the whole story of school effectiveness
  4. The statutory assessment system should be accessible to pupils of all abilities and recognise their progress
  5. Progress should be valued over attainment in statutory assessment
  6. The number of statutory assessments in the primary phase should be minimised

While much of the focus around the ARG report has been their recommendations for changes to statutory assessment, a really important message within it that shouldn’t be overlooked is the importance they give to the use of formative assessment to drive teaching and learning and its separation from statutory assessment.

There are some clear things that emerge from the report that can inform how Classroom Monitor can be used effectively in schools:

Using ongoing assessment to inform pupils’ learning journeys

Teachers who use Classroom Monitor can use the markbooks to identify gaps to inform planning, Assessment Summaries to share targets and achievement and Curriculum tracking to identify focus areas for the class. Ongoing assessment data may be from work in books, observations, low-stakes in-class tests or discussions with pupils. But whatever its source, these can be recorded and potentially evidenced from within Classroom Monitor. At key transition points and between year groups, that rich formative data can be used to ensure that any prior learning is built on and the learning journey isn’t interrupted.

Striking a balance between statutory assessments and ongoing assessments

A key point that is made in the report is that we should avoid focusing on the goal of ongoing assessment to predict future performance in statutory assessments. Instead we should make sure that we capture accurate pictures of current performance and judge this against age related expectations. Classroom Monitor can be used to show what is happening in terms of ongoing assessment through the markbooks but you also have the flexibility to record judgements and scores from other sources that can be taken into account.

Valuing progress

While all teachers want their pupils to attain the highest possible standards, it’s important to recognise the context of that attainment through demonstrating progress that has been made. It’s worth also recognising that good progress will look different for different pupils with different starting points, different needs and different learning paths. Rather than just giving you measures of this progress, users of the Assessment Progress Reports and Learning Journeys will be familiar with how these can be used to provide richness and in turn inform further progress.

Whilst the ARG report is the result of many discussions and everyone in the ARG group didn’t agree with every aspect of it, the group shared a belief that:

‘benefits for pupils will only be fully realised if we rigorously defend the core purpose of assessment in supporting learning.’

So while we have at least a year of promised stability in terms of statutory assessment, there is the opportunity to examine practices of ongoing assessment and how its impact could enhance the learning of pupils in your school.

You can see the full Assessment Review Group report from the NAHT here: Redressing the Balance

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