Ticking 198 boxes for new primary assessments means ‘days’ of extra work

Teachers expect a new government system for the assessment of Year 6 pupils’ writing to dramatically increase their workload when it is introduced next term.

Department for Education guidance published this week suggests that teachers check six different pieces of work for every pupil against up to 33 different statements, making a possible total of 198 new boxes to tick per child.

Under the previous system teachers made a holistic judgement of which level a child was working at using their existing knowledge of a pupil’s work over time. Heads fear the new system could to amount to an extra two days’ work for each year 6 teacher.

It will involve them checking work against statements such as “mostly uses commas for lists” and “uses passive verbs mostly appropriately”.

Michael Tidd, deputy head of Edgewood primary school, Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, said: “Before we didn’t tick boxes. Teacher assessment was part of the job and so it didn’t really need any time because we were doing it anyway. Now we have to collect evidence and it will add hours of work perhaps 30 minutes per child, which all adds up across a class of 30.”

The guidance shows examples of work from fictional children, Alex, Leigh and Morgan, who are working respectively ‘towards’, ‘at’ and ‘in greater depth within’ the expected standard.

Mr Tidd was concerned that Leigh, who is at the new expected standard for 2016, would have been a level 5 under the previous system – a level which only 36 per cent of children achieved last year.

Right… I’ve had a look through “Leigh’s” work.
Anyone want to try to persuade me that s/he wouldn’t get a Level 5 under the old system?

— Michael Tidd (@MichaelT1979) February 8, 2016

@MichaelT1979 have you seen the writing exemplification? Looks like level 5 is the new expectation…so much for 4b!

— David Wayland (@DavidWayland1) February 8, 2016

But he said that this would depend on what kind of writing task would be permitted as evidence for the assessment.

“The expectations are massively different [from last year] if you take them at face value,” Mr Tidd said. “But, if children are allowed to edit, use dictionaries or respond to feedback, then it would be easier to evidence a higher standard of writing.

“There is no official word and it will have an impact. If some schools say a child has to have a “cold task” [an exam-conditions style task] with no support and no dictionary as evidence, whereas others say that at the end of a two-week unit on newspaper writing they are allowed to write a newspaper report with a dictionary at their side, that will make a difference.

“Just as we’ve received this important document, we now need the next one – the FAQ on how it should be applied. We seem to be in a position where the information hasn’t clarified as much as we might have hoped.”

A spokesperson for the Standards and Testing Agency, part of the Department for Education, said: “Reducing unnecessary teacher workload is a key priority for this government. The exemplification materials are intended as a tool for schools to use when assessing a pupil’s standard.

“Within them there are 18 ‘pupil can’ statements that teachers must be able to demonstrate that a pupil meets in order to award the “working at the expected” standard in writing at Key Stage 2.”

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