Thursday 26 February (this week) saw ISA’s annual Junior schools’ conference visit the Institute of Marketing’s fine premises at Moor Hall, nearby in Cookham. The whole day was given over to looking at what assessing children’s achievement looks like in schools after the abandonment by DfE of National Curriculum levels.
Claires Court left NC leveling in 2006/7, when it had become very evident to us that their presence was badly damaging teaching and learning within English at both Key stage 2 and Key stage 3. Most obviously affected was creative writing in years 3 to 6, though at secondary level, the work in years 7, 8 and 9 leading towards successful KS3 examination seemed to be contradictory to the skills needed for GCSE writing in Year 10. Whilst we have no regrets about leaving the National Curriculum and writing our own, we have had to stretch ourselves somewhat to match our assessment mechanisms to the Claires Court essentials that form the weft and weave of our schemes of work across the years from Year 1 to the end of Year 9.
My colleagues, Leanne Barlow (Head of Junior Girls) and Lindsay King (Head of lower Juniors and curriculum leader) presented how we moved from NC levels to the current state of play for junior boys and girls within Claires Court to the ISA Junior Heads, and as an observer at the occasion, it was really rewarding to witness the very genuine approval our national colleagues gave to the presentation and of course the thinking and pedagogy Leanne and Lindsay showed. I am extremely fortunate to have colleagues of such quality, not just willing and able to design anew but able to stand up to a national audience and provide persuasive commentary on our work.
You can see Barlow and King’s presentation here – http://goo.gl/KSWBVn, our examplar St Custard’s report* making use of our assessment approach here, and the unique Lesson and Work Scrutiny form we use here.
The day included some excellent other presentations, from Andy Mellor on Assessment mastery, from yours truly on the broader perspectives schools are required to keep in mind when designing assessment, quality assurance and monitoring arrangements, and from 2 of the country’s leading experts in the use of digital technologies, Mark Burrowes from 2Simple/Purple Mash, and C-learning’s Paul Farrell, for teaching and tracking. Claires Court already uses the tools both experts recommend, again useful to align these pioneering methods now being recommended for schools across the country with our own 2 or more years experience of using them!
ISA’s Membership officer, Carey Dickinson, joined the conference for the day, stayed overnight and then visited all three Claires Court geographical sites on Friday morning. Carey has more letters after her name than most, graduating from Somerville College for her first degree in History, before gaining her PGCE in primary education at Homerton College, Cambridge and then rather later in life acquiring her Masters in Education, before pursuing her interest in Drama as she moved in to the prep. school world to lead the Performing Arts department at Dame Bradburys School, in Saffron Walden. As one of the leading sector professionals in the country, Carey showed really genuine appreciation of Miss Barlow and Mrs King’s remarkable work. The praise was well deserved, as it is this day when the papers and broadcasters carry the news that a national teacher-led commission is being set up to help primary schools in England find new ways of assessing their pupils’ progress. This further highlights the dilemma the country is facing in measuring children’s progress when the curriculum is being changed at the same time as the tools used to assess its effectiveness have been removed – honestly, very many schools are seriously worried about the limbo in which they find themselves. Inevitably, this also highlights just how well we have done as a school to be fearless, innovative and demanding of ourselves to establish a new curriculum approach with assessment, reporting and quality assurance mechanisms in place in good time – as the ISI inspectors found in March 2014 – by their judgement ‘excellent’ indeed.
*The report tables don’t quite print for exemplar work such as this from our MIS database – works fine for genuine reports!