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  • How to tell whether an external assessment system is right for your school

    by Rebecca Haworth

    Ever since the government announced the disbanding of National Curriculum levels, schools have been asking for support on what the government and Ofsted expect to see from a school assessment system.

    In September, the Department for Education responded with a report called the 'Final report of the Commission on Assessment without Levels’. This commission was set up by the government in February 2015 to advise schools on best practice, and make it clear what Ofsted are looking for from school’s assessment systems.

    This report gives guidance on how schools can develop or audit their own assessment policy, but warns schools that, ‘with freedom, however, comes responsibility’.

    It stresses that schools looking to save time through the use of external assessment systems should interrogate them, and consider how those tools support the assessment policy and approach of your school.

    The questions below are those the commission recommends every school should be asking of any resources bought in. (Naturally, we’ve answered these questions for schools interested in the summative assessment provided in Pearson Primary Progress and Assess tools and resources!)

    1) What do the assessment tools support?

    The expert guidance recommends you should be clear whether it supports formative or summative assessment, and what the purpose of recording any data is.

    The Progress and Assess reading, maths and science tests are designed as six weekly progress checks with an online space for recording results. They provide in-school summative assessment that gives teachers and senior leaders a clear understanding of where children are against age-related expectations in reading, maths and science.

    These expectations are driven by the 2014 National Curriculum objectives. They can be used for reporting children’s progress and attainment against the National Curriculum standard and from their starting points.

    This can be reported to parents, senior leaders at cohort level, and to class teachers on a six weekly basis. The marking guidance that accompanies the tests offer formative information on what children need to do to improve.

    2) What is the quality of information provided?

    Progress and Assess provides 3 layers of information. Firstly, where children are against age-related expectations (below, working towards, at or exceeding); secondly, how they are progressing over time in comparison to the class average and national standard; and thirdly where common misconceptions lie.

    The judgements on attainment driven by coverage of National Curriculum objectives. A panel of experts in reading, maths and science have then broken down the objectives into small steps of progression, to enable an understanding of what attainment might look like before the achievement of end-of-year expectations.

    3) How much time will it take teachers to record information from our tests?

    Our tests have been designed to be easy to mark, using marking guidance developed by experts. Our recording tool is also designed to be powerful yet easy to use.

    For a class of 30 children it takes around 1 hour to mark the tests, and 5 minutes to input this data and generate a report.

    4) How frequently is it appropriate to collect and report this information?

    Our maths and science summative tests are designed to check understanding at the end of a six-weekly topic or unit.

    Our reading tests can be ran as frequently as every six weeks, or used every three months, depending on the needs of your school.

    Current practice is to run these every six weeks, and the commission recommends every 12 weeks if you are not getting formative information from the assessment.

    5) Does the product support the school’s policy on assessment?

    The Commission recommends that all schools should incorporate in-school summative assessment when developing a ‘robust assessment policy’. The commission recommends that summative assessment firstly supports children’s understanding of how ‘well children have learnt a topic or course of work taught over a period of time’.

    It should also help teachers to ‘evaluate pupil learning at the end of an instructional unit... and the impact of their own teaching’.

    Progress and Assess offers insightful feedback that children can act on through the expertly written marking guidance. This provides suggestions of children’s common misconception and guidance on how to address this in further teaching.

    Each test is based on a specific set of objectives derived from the Pearson Primary Progression Maps for reading, science and maths. This enables teachers to pinpoint specific skills, concepts and knowledge that might be missing.

    The report allows you to check at a glance how the children are performing against the national standard, and also where the class average lies.

    The Commission recommends that summative assessment is used in conjunction with formative assessment, which it claims ‘should be an integral part of teaching and learning’.

    Using Progress and Assess as part of our reading (Bug Club), science (Science Bug) and maths (Abacus) programmes allows schools to cross-reference the summative reports with day-to-day formative assessment opportunities that the programmes provide, such as quizzes on books they’ve read independently, observation suggestions during hands-on science activities and mental maths questions.

    The Commission advises that ‘Nationally standardised tests are not as helpful diagnostically’ and advises against using SATs practice papers as the backbone of your summative assessment policy.

    However, the tests have been developed to be robust to ensure children are demonstrating their knowledge and understanding in preparation for the new Curriculum requirements that will be tested from 2016 onwards.

    6) How will it support the delivery of your school’s policy on assessment?

    Delivery of assessment can be a huge workload pressure, and can often be very inefficient. In Progress and Assess we have developed a set of pre-made tools that will ensure you can put your policy into practice, and ensure that it is effective.

    The following tools are all designed to support the your in-school delivery:

    • A progression map which supports planning of key assessment outcomes for each term of primary school by offering fine level detail on how children can develop skills and knowledge in the build up to end of year National Curriculum expectations.

    • Individual progression maps for each year (broken down into bookbands in Reading and terms in Maths) to enable teachers to record lightbulb moments as child master each objective. This provides teachers with support on feeding back to parents and children on what strengths they can build on, and which objectives they have yet to master.

    • Our tests are designed to delivered in existing carousel time but flexible enough to fit into your own assessment schedule.

    • Our tests are designed to be dyslexia friendly.

    • If you have a wide range of reading abilities, our reading tests are structured by bookband to allow all children who are able to decode to answer comprehension questions using a text that they can read.

    • Reporting that provides just the key information on whether children in a class or group are meeting age-related expectations.

    7) Is the assessment approach on which the product is based credible?

    Our end-of-year objectives derive from the National Curriculum for England so that you can be sure that you are assessing children against the demands of the new curriculum.

    We have drawn on the extensive expertise of our panel of subject matter experts in maths, reading and science (Dee Reid, Kate Ruttle and Ruth Merttens) to create progression maps that break down the National Curriculum objectives into age-related expectations.

    Teachers can see the underpinning progression in the accompanying progression maps for science, reading and maths, and use this to check what they’re assessing fits with what they’re teaching.

    8) Does the product give good value?

    If you subscribe to our Bug Club or Abacus programme the Progress and Assess tools are included free of charge. Prices for a whole-school start at £150. This provides you summative reporting on all children’s attainment and progress from years 1 to 6.

    9) Is it the best way to support delivery of your school’s assessment policy?

    Progress and Assess is a toolkit of summative assessment that can complement existing maths and reading programmes in your school, or be bought in as part of our reading programme Bug Club, and maths programme Abacus.

    We provide professional development for schools adopting Progress and Assess, as well as on developing an assessment policy in line with the government and Ofsted guidelines.

    If you have any further queries on how Progress and Assess matches your school needs, please contact your local Pearson Primary Consultant.

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  • Final report of the Commission on Assessment without Levels - does it move us on?

    by Ros Letellier

    Remember Pavlov? He’s the guy who conditioned dogs to respond with a saliva reflex to the sound of bell.

    At first, the dogs would be given a nice juicy piece of meat each time the bell rang, until eventually, the neural pathway was strong enough that the dogs would salivate at the idea of being fed even when the piece of meat was then withheld.

    Obviously, as humans we’re a bit brighter than your average dog. But that doesn’t mean we don’t respond to conditioning – particularly when fear is involved. For many years now you’ve been expected, as teachers, to take a data-led approach to assessment. To give each child a number and to measure their progress as their evolution between these numbers.

    A failure to keep track of, and to report on children’s attainment using these numbers would result in a less-than-glowing appraisal of your school’s performance from Ofsted.

    So, while the DfE has long been clear that Levels are finished and that schools are free to develop their own systems of assessment and reporting, so strong is the conditioning that many schools have had difficulty believing in this freedom and letting go of the old regime.

    Even those wanting to engage found themselves in a vacuum of information and direction. For pressured Heads and senior leaders with a mountain of things on their plate already, the whole area of assessment must have seemed like a ticking time-bomb that they didn’t have the manual or the time to defuse.

    The Commission on Assessment without Levels was therefore set up to provide guidance to schools on creating their own assessment policies, and to help them through a time of ‘radical cultural and pedagogical change’ (to borrow from John McIntosh’s foreward to the commission’s final report).

    What it does do, is provide a manifesto for high-quality, meaningful assessment that offers guidance to schools to help them develop their own policies.

    However, if any schools were hoping for an off-the-peg solution to assessment or a replacement set of levels fitted to the new curriculum, the commission’s final report does not deliver.

    It provides no templates, and prescribes no specific content for a school’s assessment policy. What it does do, is provide a manifesto for high-quality, meaningful assessment that offers guidance to schools to help them develop their own policies.

    The detail is of course available within the report itself, but the overall message is that formative assessment is crucial; that acting upon assessment is far more important than recording it, and that schools ought not to be driven by expectations of what they think Ofsted inspectors are looking for. (The latest Common Inspection Framework plainly states that they are not looking for a particular approach).

    The report also identifies what needs to happen in order for schools to feel completely comfortable and secure about their assessment policies. To be able, in short, to let go of the old way of thinking without fear of reprisal.

    This includes a greater focus on assessment as part of initial teacher training, training for school leaders and Ofsted inspectors around the principles and purposes of assessment, and what best-practice looks like.

    Does this mean the demise of summative assessment? Not at all. The report recognises that summative tests are a useful means of evaluation pupils’ learning and progress at the end of a period of teaching.

    It’s important, however, that the data is not an end in itself, but is a way of a way of getting information that supports pupils' progress and attainment to help you tailor your teaching accordingly.

    It follows therefore, that when you’re creating, or looking for ready-made summative assessment resources, you need to think about how they help you to close that loop.

    What do you do now? Well, whatever it takes to get rid of that old conditioning. Grasp this opportunity for what it is – a government sanctioned move towards a more innovative, child-focused, sensible approach to assessment.

    Read the report, if you haven’t already, and get excited. And most of all, believe. Believe that you know what good assessment looks like, and believe that the DfE trusts you to make it happen.

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  • Together, we make an impact

    by Chantel Carpenter

    Pearson Primary - Together, we make an impact

    Last month saw the proud launch of our new Impact pages. Here, you’ll find the first tranche of case studies and evidence showing exactly how our programmes and professional development help teachers to have the biggest impact on each of their children.

    Don’t get us wrong. We’re not trying to lay claim to credit that belongs to you. One of the central tenets of the Pearson Primary manifesto is that we support teachers to do what they do best.

    We know that it’s the quality and the passion of your teaching that has the greatest impact on children’s learning. But we also know that teaching is a huge job. You have to be an expert in all things: the subjects you teach, pedagogy, assessment, classroom management, curriculum design… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    So let us take some of the pressure off your shoulders. You can trust us to support you with fantastic resources and training that help you do your job as brilliantly as you want to. We know, though, that trust is won, not given, and that’s what our impact site is all about.

    Evidence through to impact

    It matters to us that the programmes and professional development we create really do help children to achieve in their education. That’s why we build our programmes on respected research and evidence - such as the Clackmannanshire Study into Synthetic Phonics - and why we sponsor studies by leading academics into key areas of Primary assessment, pedagogy and policy.

    When we're talking about children's futures, though, it's not good enough simply to create a resource and send it out into the world to make its own way.  That's why Pearson is committed to evaluating and reporting on the impact of our resources – and improving them, when necessary, to make sure they do not just a good, but a great job for the teachers and children using them.

    We do this while we are developing them - road-testing them with real teachers and children. We do this by checking in with our customers once they have bought them to see how they are using them in their school, and to what effect. We do this by giving them to Local Authorities to test with groups of schools in their area.

    So, please do check out the case studies, infographics and research summaries to see the positive impact that the partnership of great teachers and great Pearson programmes and professional development have been having in schools like yours.

    Then, if you would like to, get in touch with us to tell us about your experiences with them. Perhaps you'd be willing for us to do a case study based on your school, or perhaps you would just like to tell us what you think works best, or what you would do differently if you could. Please use the comment function below and we'll be in touch.

    P.S. - This is an evolving site, with more to come for maths and intervention, so why not bookmark it to make sure you get updates?

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  • Shine a Light Awards

    by Judy Anders

    Aerodrome Primary Academy School winner

    At Pearson Primary, one of our main manifesto pledges is that we put learners at the centre of everything we do. For us that means every child getting their chance to shine.

    That's why we're so proud of the work of our colleagues at Pearson Clinical Assessment, who, along with the Communication Trust, sponsor the annual Shine a Light Awards.

    These awards recognise the amazing work done by organisations and individuals to help children and young people with language and communication difficulties.

    Host of the award ceremony, David Baddiel, summed up why it is so important to recognise this contribution: “Speech and language problems too often go under the radar, so everyone should not only be congratulated for their work but for bringing this important issue to the attention of others."

    He went on say, "I would like to say well done to all those shortlisted who have shown true grit and determination to better themselves and others. They are all a true inspiration - keep up the good work.”

    We at Pearson Primary couldn't have put it better ourselves. In the Primary sector, there was one outright winner and two highly commended finalists:

    Winner 

    Aerodrome Primary Academy School (featured in picture above). Aerodrome Primary Academy has introduced numerous initiatives to support their pupils from the Children’s Centre and Nursery through to Year 6, focusing on improving the communication skills of all pupils.

    Aerodrome Academy is dedicated to providing a whole school approach and has developed a strong commitment to working closely with parents. The school's “A chance for all” approach impressed the judges resulting in amazing pupil progress and we are delighted to announce Aerodrome Academy as this year’s winner.

    Highly commended

    John Ruskin Primary School, which was praised for its creative support for children with speech, language and communication needs and its systematic approach to developing the communication skills of all its pupils.

    Lark Hall Primary School. The judges particularly liked the fact the school shop was run by the students as it gave them valuable opportunities to develop communication skills. Congratulations to the three winners and to all of the finalists, for all of the incredible work they do.    

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  • What everyone is thinking on the first day back at school

    by Ros Letellier

     

    Parents: 7.45 a.m. So, the Age 5 trousers look a little short but the Age 6 trousers are dragging on the ground – which looks least stupid?

    8.15 a.m. Before the summer I had 14 water bottles, now I only have 1… which kid do I like most?

    8.30 a.m. Can’t believe we’re going to be late on the very first day. If I was a pair of black school shoes where would I have put myself for six weeks?

    8.45 a.m. Can’t wait to see my mummy friends again… Ooh, and yes of course, hope you have a lovely first day back, darling!  

    Kids:

    6.00 a.m. Yep, I’m awake. I think I’ll go and jump on mummy.

    7.45 a.m. I want a chocolate biscuit for breakfast. No, not cereals. No, not toast. No, not even Pain au chocolat. I want a Wagonwheeeeeeeeellll!

    8.30 a.m. Why is mummy in such a flap about this? I wish she’d stop asking where I put my shoes – that was like YEARS ago.

    8.45 a.m. Yay! It’s like a giant reunion party.

    9.30 a.m. I miss my old teacher

    3.15 p.m. I LOVE my new teacher!  

    Teachers:

    8.30 a.m. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more

    8.45 a.m. Are you going to be a problem, Mrs Parent?

    8.50 a.m. Name labels. Need name labels!

    10.00 a.m. Blur

    11.00 a.m. Blur

    12.00 p.m. Blur

    1.00 p.m. Blur

    2.00 p.m. Blur

    3.15 p.m. Must match children to correct parent. Aaaarggh, escapee. Back ‘ere, Jones!

    3.30 p.m. Only six more parents in the line to see me.

    3.45 p.m. Shattered!

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  • Update on the new Common Inspection framework for September 2015

    by Kate Pick

    The updated Ofsted Common Inspection Framework (CIF) was launched on 11 June for inspections from September 2015. Until the end of the current term schools will be inspected under the 2012 framework (last updated in January 2015).

    The new CIF is designed to pull together the inspection of the different education settings (early years setting, maintained schools and academies, non-association independent schools and further education and skills providers) ‘to provide greater coherence across different providers that cater for similar age ranges’.

    Between the framework, the Inspectors' handbook, and a plethora of supporting material to assist schools with its roll-out and assimilation, there is quite a lot to wade through, so here is a quick summary of the most important points:

    Slight shift in judgement areas

    • Ofsted will now make graded judgements in the following areas (2012 judgement areas in brackets). The same judgement areas will be used in all education settings.
    • Overall effectiveness (Overall effectiveness)
    • Effectiveness of leadership and management (Leadership and management)
    • Personal development, behaviour and welfare (Behaviour and safety of pupils)
    • Quality of teaching, learning and assessment (Quality of teaching)
    • Outcomes for pupils (Achievement of pupils)

    Increased emphasis on safeguarding

    Safeguarding is now reported under Leadership and Management. There will also be a greater emphasis on the notion of ‘British values’ (already included in the January edition) which include ‘tolerance’ and ‘respect’.

    The personal development section also includes a reference to extremism – ‘understand how to keep themselves safe from relevant risks such as exploitation or extremism, including when using the internet’.

    Shorter inspections for good schools

    Short inspections for schools judged as being ‘good’ in their last inspection are being introduced. These new shorter inspections will start from the assumption that the school is still good, with an emphasis on leadership.

    The onus is therefore on the leaders to provide sufficient evidence to HMI that this is the case, with a full inspection to follow only if HMI do not see enough during the short visit to be convinced.

    Focus areas

    The launch of the new CIF was heralded by a speech delivered by Sir Michael Wilshaw to Westminister outlining the principles of the document and talking about the future of education inspection.

    In it, he outlined a number of key focus areas that inspectors would be looking at. In his own words, these are:

    • Have the leaders got a grip on the institution? Do they fully understand its strengths and weaknesses?
    • Have they communicated their strategy for raising standards to the key stakeholders?
    • Are they focussed on what really benefits children and young people, rather than wasting their time endlessly preparing for an Ofsted inspection which could be years away?
    • Do they refuse to accept excuses for underachievement and are they prepared to go the extra mile to compensate for family background?
    • Are they simply presiders over the status quo, content to take the path of least resistance or are they prepared to challenge staff and students to do better?
    • Have they built, or are they developing, a culture that is calm, orderly and aspirational?
    • Are they, for example, people who tolerate scrappy worksheets? Or are they people who insist that children should have good materials to work with, including textbooks, readers and library books which they can use for classwork and homework?

    Dispelling the myths

    Alongside the inspection handbook/document is an additional paper clarifying the facts about Ofsted inspections and attempting to dispel the ‘myths’ surrounding inspection preparation, a key source of stress for teachers and school leaders. Ofsted does not:

    • Require schools to show individual or previous lesson plans
    • Require details of the pay grade of individual teachers
    • Require evidence for inspection beyond what is set out in the inspection handbook
    • Expect to see a particular frequency or quantity of work in pupils’ books or folders
    • Require the performance and pupil-tracking data and school or college self-evaluations to be presented in a specific format
    • Grade individual lessons

    This guidance has been well received by teachers and teaching unions. as evidence that Ofsted is recognising - and seeking to address - both the mental toll and the considerable demands on teachers' time that inspection has been taking in recent years.

    What about assessment?

    From September 2015 schools are required to show how they are managing and measuring attainment and progress now that they are no longer using levels to measure attainment.

    Inspectors will consider how well teachers use any assessment for establishing pupils’ starting points, teacher assessment and testing to modify teaching so that pupils achieve their potential by the end of a year or key stage. However, Ofsted does not expect to see any particular system of assessment in place.

    Evidence of in-year progress and attainment information should be provided to inspectors in the format that the school would ordinarily use to track and monitor the progress of pupils in the school.

    Reference is made many times in the document to 'Schools' own Assessment Policies'. As part of the good practice in school policy update and review, schools are well-advised to have their assessment, marking and feedback policies updated and in place by the start of the Autumn term.

    Find out more how Pearson can support you with assessment with our new service Progress & Assess.

    Image credit: Robert Kneschke. Shutterstock

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  • 10 universal truths about the summer holidays for Primary school teachers

    by Ros Letellier

    1. In a triumph of hope over experience you will be imagining six weeks of glorious sunshine and brilliant blue skies, and will spend most of the break waiting expectantly for summer to actually arrive, before finally admitting defeat on 26 August.

    2. In the first week of the holidays you will get a cold as you finally allow yourself to relax.

    3. Luckily, you’ve got a mountain of chocolate from your pupils to keep your spirits high for at least a couple of weeks. (Oh OK, two nights with the latest box-set on the telly).

    4. The two days where the sun really does put in an appearance you’ll be so unused to it you’ll forget your sun-cream and end up just a tiny bit crisped (in spite of all your warnings to your pupils over the last term!).

    5. If travelling anywhere by ferry you are bound to bump into one of your pupils past or present (and their parents…), especially if it’s a long crossing. Get a cabin!

    6. You will lose track of the number of people who tell you how lucky you are to have such a long holiday, but lose the will after the first one to explain how many extra hours you put in the rest of the year.

    7. No matter how good your holiday was, that first night back in your home and your own bed is as comforting as hot chocolate and marshmallows.

    8. That Sunday evening feeling will probably start somewhere around the time you finally realise that summer’s not going to show. Although if you have children of your own, you may actually be looking forward to going back to work…

    9. You secretly love it when the shops fill up with stationery. Ooh, all those different coloured gel pens, geometry sets and pristine pads of paper... it’s like Christmas, but better.

    10. You’re feeling a little bit sad about the children you’ve just got to know over the past year moving on, but also excited about getting to know your new bunch. They’re the reason you do it, after all.

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  • Setting the scene for SATs '16

    by Ros Letellier

    With SATs over for another year, the countdown to a new brand of tests covering the content of the 2014 curriculum has begun.

    Complete with a new floor standard for school accountability, pending decision-making on performance descriptors and controversy over SATs re-sits, the new age of assessment promises to be an interesting one.

    Progress versus attainment

    From 2022 schools that have elected to adopt the Reception Baseline check from September 2015 will be able to be judged on the progress that their children have made rather than on their final attainment.

    However, as the first eligible cohort work their way through the Key Stages, the measure for school accountability over the next 7 years will remain attainment. As we know, the DfE has set the bar high - 85% of pupils reaching a level equivalent to a 4b (in old money) in the core subjects, meaning that SATs pressure is about to ramp up another notch.

    The weakness of this plan is the absence of information or support relating to how schools are to achieve this, beyond a notion that by expecting more of pupils they will strive to meet up to them.

    Official figures from the DfE show that around 100,000 pupils a year currently are failing to achieve the required standards in English and maths, and with pupils now facing tests based on harder curriculum content this figure is likely to grow. Which could be a problem in light of the policy announced in April that pupils who do not pass their end of KS2 SATs will be required to re-sit them.

    Resisting resits

    It is fair to say that SATs resits have not been well received by the teaching community. First and foremost, it is in direct contradiction of the original intention of SATs to benchmark school performance, not that of the children. Even the kindest of critics believe it’s an idea that has not been fully worked through.

    Rhetoric around the time of the election was unhelpful, obscuring the intention of this policy to give children a further chance to catch-up before they get stuck into their Secondary education. Language such as “zero tolerance of failure and mediocrity” and claims that Conservative educational policy would not allow children who failed their SATs to drag down standards for brighter pupils (reported in the Telegraph) came off to many as discriminatory.

    However, removed from all of the pre-election bluster, the policy is at its core about a pre-emptive strike to help pupils destined for poor performance at GCSE. “We know that the biggest predictor of success at GCSE is whether young people have mastered the basics at age 11. That means if we fail to get it right for young people at the start of secondary school they’ll struggle for the rest of their time in education,” argues Nicky Morgan.

    Not many could argue with the sentiment. There needs to be more of a focus on supporting struggling pupils, particularly as the harder curriculum may mean this group becomes more numerous, pulling in pupils previously considered ‘middling’ into its orbit.

    A policy with potential…?

    In an extremely well-argued article, Laura McInerney, editor of Schools Week, concludes that there is potential to the policy – as long as certain ‘sticking points’ can be overcome, and it comes with ideas and resources for support, rather than becoming a stick to beat schools with.

    McInerney’s conditions really are the key, of course. The ‘sticking points’ are substantial: relating primarily to the increased pressures on both children and teachers.

    Although children will be taking the resits once they start in Secondary, and therefore the onus is on their new school to help them pass – the threat of resits increases the pressure on children to succeed first time round, and the pressure on Primary teachers to ensure they do so.

    Whereas previously the impact of poor results would be felt largely by the school, in future they will also be borne by the children themselves.

    A stressful start to secondary

    In a worst-case scenario, we may see desperate secondary schools seeking ways to minimise their intake of children with weak results or ability-streaming enacted from the very start of Year 7.

    Children starting their secondary lives in the position of having to retake their SATs could feel stigmatised – a failure from the start, which can only exacerbate the growing social problem of anxiety and depression in children. The NSPCC reports a 200% increase over recent years in calls related to exam stress.

    We must therefore find ways to relieve the pressure on the children. This may take the form of pastoral care, a focus for PSHE lessons, or best of all by removing the pressure from the whole of the accountability chain, so that it doesn’t trickle down to the most vulnerable. In this regard, it might be helpful if the DfE would reconsider the target for the number of pupils expected to pass re-sits (currently set at 80%, criticised by the ASCL as ‘arbitrary’) and the obligation on Secondary schools to report on these results.

    All this being said, there are mitigating factors for the re-sits: they will be slimmed down versions of the actual SATs, and will be internally marked, which might help make them slightly less of an administrative burden.

    Children will have two opportunities in the year to pass them, but crucially will not be held back if they persistently fail. And finally, contrary to the furore over resits penalising those with Special Education Needs, there is in fact no requirement for this group to take them.

    Support and direction needed

    Beyond this, there is also the information and support gap already mentioned. What needs to happen to help children pass tests that they failed only a few months earlier – that has not already been attempted by talented and hard-working Primary teaching professionals?

    How will secondary teachers close a gap potentially made worse by summer slide? Will there be any central recommendations or co-ordination?

    Early intervention seems a better route: it feels less rushed, and less stigmatising than an all-or-nothing Year 7 sprint. But in a world of overstretched class sizes, overworked teachers and dwindling budgets – still more investment in resources and training is needed.

    Let us hope that having announced the birth of this particular policy, Nicky Morgan’s department has spent the intervening time working out how to bring it up.

    It is a policy that comes from a good place, but which risks sinking - dragging pupil and teacher morale with it – unless it can be buoyed by some real investment in resource and some rethinking around whether there is any real benefit in setting reportable targets for the resit pass rate.

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  • Pearson Primary manifesto: #3 We work with charities that really make a difference to children's lives.

    Alongside our commitment to making resources that have a measurable impact on children’s lives, we seek out and support charities that are equally dedicated to helping people make progress in their lives through learning.

    Feeding imaginations (and tummies)

    We know for example a child’s ability to concentrate is seriously impaired when they come to school hungry, as sadly an estimated 700,000 children in the UK do each day. So we’ve donated over £64,500 to Magic Breakfast and voted them our charity of the year for three years running. Donate to Magic Breakfast.
     

    Reading for pleasure isn’t just fun but also a key indicator of future academic success; that having books at home and being read to from an early age is crucial to making this happen. That’s why, through Booktime, we’ve given away over 10 million books to Reception-aged children, and why we’re extremely proud to sponsor the annual national Read for my School competition that has over 200,000 children in over 3500 schools reading one million books each year.

    To help facilitate the sharing of outstanding teaching and leadership practice, we’re working with the Cambridge Primary Review Trust to help schools to build an outstanding, creative curriculum in a principled, evidence-based way. Plus we’re proud to sponsor the Pearson Teaching Awards, giving a platform for rewarding and recognising the unsung heroes that are so vital to our children’s futures.

    So many children all over the world are far less privileged than our own children, which is why Pearson has been working with Book Aid International since 1980, donating over 2.5 million books, including many of our primary titles.

    Literacy is the key to transforming lives. So, Pearson has embarked on a campaign to inspire new collaboration on the evolving challenges and opportunities around literacy. If Project Literacy was to achieve one thing in the next five years, what would it be? Do share with us at #projectliteracy.

    And lastly but certainly by no means least, Save the Children and Pearson have launched an ‘Every Child Learning’ partnership, to help out-of-school children caught in the Syrian refugee crisis access quality education.

    Providing education for children in conflict and emergency settings presents many unique challenges. Over the course of the three year partnership, Pearson has committed £1 million to work with Save the Children to identify and develop solutions for delivering education in emergencies, drawing on the expertise and assets of both organisations. Of course, the credit for all these achievements goes to the wonderful organisations we work with. We are honoured to be able to play a part in making them happen.

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  • How Springwood Primary School just made our week...

    by Kate Jolliffe

    Last week we received a video made by the children and teachers at Springwood Primary in Wales. It was a short but exuberant film in which they share some love for our whole school reading programme - Bug Club.

    Made by the children and teachers themselves, it was so natural and honest it couldn't possibly have been scripted. For the Bug Club team, it was so special because it was completely Springwood's own initiative. We never asked them to do it, we didn't give them any discounts for their 'free marketing' - they just made it and shared it to our Twitter feed.

    Pearson is a fairly large organisation but the Primary team here in Oxford is not. Bug Club is created and managed by a surprisingly small team of people whose job it is to keep improving both the printed and online eBooks, ensuring they are as fun and engaging as possible. Seeing the children of Springwood, iPads in hand, speaking so enthusiastically about Bug Club has delighted the team of people who work on it every day.

    Their rather fabulous little video, freely created and so kindly shared, genuinely has made our week.

    We spoke to Justin Dowd, a teacher at Springwood, after seeing the video, and were even more delighted by a comment he made that, ‘he thought Bug Club would improve reading standards, but since getting it in, it’s transformed them!’

    Much as we love hearing the good stuff, just like the schools and children we serve we are on a journey of continuous improvement and learning. If you have feedback about any Pearson Primary product please let us know. Use this blog to comment, fill out one of regular online surveys, speak to one of sales consultants or customer service people or use Twitter, Facebook or email us. We value your feedback enormously.

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  • Don't wait for 'green traffic lights' to depart on your assessment journey...

    by Ros Letellier

    "If you are [...] waiting for the 'right' thing to happen, you might wait for a long time. It's like waiting for all the traffic lights to be green for five miles before starting the trip." - Robert Kiyosaki

    Waiting for more clarity on assessment? You’re not alone! Our consultants are hearing from schools daily that they need something to help them with assessment.

    At the Education Show last week teachers crammed liked sardines into Colin Watson’s update on Assessment post-Levels. (Colin Watson is the Deputy Director of Assessment Policy and Development at the DfE). However, if they were looking for an epiphany, they were likely disappointed.

    There was little in the presentation that we didn’t already know - perhaps with the exception of a little further clarity on the ‘progress measure’ being more around added-value rather then set expectations of progress. There was also confirmation that we won’t know detail about the scaled score for SATs until the first set of tests have been marked.

    The truth is, there is nothing really to wait for. Levels were disbanded because they didn’t fit with the freedom of the new curriculum, and they are not being replaced for the same reason.

    Yet this freedom comes along with much higher expectations for school performance: 85% of pupils reaching a level equivalent to a 4b (in old money) in the core subjects. Against this backdrop, it is understandable that assessing without a really clear, accredited framework matched to the new curriculum, feels like merrily swinging on a trapeze without a safety net.

    Of itself, assessment should not be a scary thing. However, assessment of children has for too long been analogous to teacher accountability. Schools may be forgiven for worrying that if they get assessment ‘wrong’ they are heading towards disaster at their next inspection. So of course they are looking for some direction; some reassurance their approach is on the right lines.

    The DfE recently recognised this apprehensiveness by setting up the Commission on Assessment Beyond Levels. We were delighted to see Dame Alison Peacock appointed to this Commission as we have long been fans of her enlightened approach to teaching and assessment. An approach that has seen her school go from special measures to outstanding in just a few short years, and which has created an environment of happy, motivated pupils - and staff.

    The Commission is likely to come out with some fantastic examples of how to look at assessment differently. However, what it is not likely to come out with is any kind of scale that will act as a substitute for levels.

    So what should you be doing?

    According to Tim Oates:

    • The new curriculum focuses on fewer things in greater depth, so assessment should be focused on whether a child has really understood and mastered these key skills.

    • We need a different concept of children's ability - that each child is capable of anything (with hard work and good teaching) - not labelled according to the level they happen to be in.

    • Enabling children to ‘produce stuff’ that can be evaluated: statements, claims, hypotheses, writing, diagrams, pictures – anything that gives teachers an insight into the mental life of the children.

    • More assessment – not less – but of a different kind. Teachers need to become ‘assessment kleptomaniacs,' carrying out high-quality formative assessment that ‘richly probes’ the depth of children’s understanding.

    So far, so good but how do you capture, track and report on this?

    And this, of course, is the crux of the problem, with some schools struggling to understand how to transform their assessments into something reportable – and lacking, frankly, in the reassurance that their children are on track for success in the end of key-stage assessments.

    As a result, simple tracking systems have seen some degree of popularity in recent months, but these have their limitations. Ultimately, you need a system of recording your judgements in a way that relates them to the objectives of the curriculum, and to each child’s level of mastery, and then enables you to report on their progress through the curriculum in a way that is clear and digestible.

    Happily, we are working on a solution to help you with this, launching in September (full details coming very soon!). Our assessment solution will combine frequent tests for the core subjects to help you keep track, proprietary progress maps that give you a logical route through the core concepts, knowledge and skills of the new curriculum, plus a tracking and reporting tool that will help you read and react to your data and to formulate reports for parents, school leaders and Ofsted.

    Summative testing and tracking is not the be-all and end-all of assessment – and on that subject the DfE have been very clear. However, we know that in reality it would be remiss of us not to make sure that our children are on track to succeed, and this is where we can help you.

    In the meantime, if you haven't set out on your assessment journey yet, don't wait for all the 'traffic lights to be green' before you do. They're already flashing amber...

    To receive information about our assessment service, sign up here

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