Developing a 3 -15 Assessment and Reporting System

I have been working with a group of colleagues to develop our assessment and reporting system for East Lothian to match the new curriculum.  We need to come up with an agreed system to replace the current 5-14 testing regime. 

What we have agreed is that we – the authority – will commission a group of headteachers to devise an assessment and reporting  system which will cover children aged 3 – 15.  The tender document is in the process of development but the system must meet the diverse needs of learners, teachers, parents, headteachers, the local authority, elected members and HMIe.  I’m very keen that we also involve parents, teachers, learners and elected members in the development of this system but the “starter for 10” will go to the headteacher group. Exciting stuff!

Our system must:

1 -make use of formative assessment as a key element in assisting the learning process;

Why? – this is what makes the biggest difference in the classroom.  It allows learners to be clear about how they can improve their learning.

2- provide clear information to learners about their progress;

Why? – children should to be able to measure their progress against a clear set of standards where they clearly understand what they have to do to meet the next level.

3- provide reliable information to parents which allows them to assist their child’s learning;

Why? – parents want to help their children but need clear advice from professionals about what they should do to help.

4- provide a means of proving the reliablity of assessment against an objective measure;

Why?- any doubts about the reliability of teacher or school assessment has the potential to fundamentally undermine confidence in the process – particularly at key transition points e.g. infant to upper primary, primary to secondary.

5- provide a clear means of measuring the value added by the teaching process;

Why?- teachers need to know if they are making a difference and the impact of any changes they make to their practice

6- enable parents to judge how their child’s learning is progressing over a period of years.

Why? – parents want to know if their child is making progress in line with the “bandwidth” of child development that might be expected for someone of their child’s age.

7- enable school managers at all levels to make judgements about the effectiveness of the curriculum and the learning and teaching process.

Why? – we need to check if what we are collectively doing is making a differnce – if not we need to try something else.

8- enable the authority to make judgements about the capacity of a school to add value to the learning process in relation to every child’s starting point;

Why? – the public needs to have confidence that it is getting good return on the investment made in that school.  The authority also needs to have confidence that the learning needs of every child is being met by the school.

9 – provide clear statements about progress in relation to literacy, numeracy and health and well being

Why? – these are building blocks to successful learnming but their eminence should also reinforce the collective resposibility of all teachers to promote achievements in these areas

10- provide a valued means of formally recognising children’s attainments and achievements at key stages between the age of 3 – 15

Why? – formal recognition can  motivate and enhance the perceived value of certain aspects/stages of the curriculum

11 – articulate with the Curriculum for Excellence assessment framework

Why? – our system must comply with national guidance

12 – be valued by all stakeholders, e.g. learners, parents, teachers, managers, authority officers, elected members, and HMIE.

Why? – this is a challenge – but what a prize!

PS – we could really do with some help in developing this tender document – so suggestions/comments are most welcome

The Dominie’s Conundrum

Some time ago I heard a fascinating true story from one of our Headteachers. She had been browsing in an old antique shop in East Lothian and had come across an ornately decorated lamp, which seemed to be of early Celtic origin.

She was captivated by its appearance and bought it on the spot.  On getting home she set about polishing it, whereupon it burst forth with an immense cloud of smoke and sparks.  As the smoke cleared a huge figure dressed in full Highland regalia appeared in front of her and announced, “Ach lassie, I am the Jimmy of the Lamp and I have the power to grant your wishes to the ancient challenge known as the Dominie’s Conundrum”

The Dominie’s Conundrum went like this:

“ I know that in your school you have forty teachers.  Ten of these teachers are amongst the best I’ve ever seen.  They can inspire children; bring light into their lives; get them to achieve beyond what anyone might have imagined; and give them a deep love of learning.

I also see that you have twenty good teachers.  These people work hard; care about the children; try and improve what they are doing in the classroom; work well with their colleagues; help children to achieve; and give children a good platform for future learning.

But, I see that you are also burdened with ten unsatisfactory teachers.  They don’t care for children; they bully and blame; they are lazy and poorly prepared; children go backwards in their classes; children turn off learning; and children take two years to recover from their experience.

The Dominie’s Conundrum gives you two choices. The first of these is to do nothing.  If you take this choice I will disappear and never return and your life will continue as normal.  The second of these choices is very simple and may change your life forever.

For I have the power to exchange your ten weak teachers for ten good, but not outstanding teachers.  But if you take this option you must also give up your ten outstanding teachers – although I will also exchange them for ten good teachers.  The result of accepting this choice is that you will have 40 good teachers to work in your school.  So what is to be your decision?”

“So” said the Headteacher, “Let me see if I’ve got this right?  You’re saying that if I want to lose my ten poor teachers, I must also lose my ten best teachers?

 “Yes”-said the Jimmy of the Lamp. 

 “But think of the life changing experiences that outstanding teachers can give individual children.  Surely a school needs to made up of different qualities of teachers?” said the Headteacher.

“Maybe it does but you need to judge whether the effect of a very poor teacher is counterbalanced by having a outstanding teacher?” said the Jimmy of the Lamp.

“But I believe that I can improve the ten weak teachers by using my strong teachers to support them.  I have faith in people and I know that fundamentally everyone wants to improve.” said the Headteacher

“And has that worked?” asked Jimmy of the Lamp.

“Well no it hasn’t- yet – but I’m confident it will given enough time. Not just that but if these teachers are as poor as you say they are I would be looking for support from my local authority to begin disciplinary procedures.” said the Headteacher.

“But just think of all the time and effort that would take.  What I’m offering you is an instant solution.  No one would suffer.  No one would ever know that you had taken this option.  The world would just change for you and your school.” Said the Jimmy.

“No one would ever know”? said the Headteacher

“No one” said the Jimmy.

“And no one would be hurt or offended” she said.  “No one” said the Jimmy.

“And all I have to do is say yes?” said the headteacher.

At that the Headteacher made her decision and Jimmy of the Lamp disappeared in a cloud of smoke – never to be seen again.

The Headteacher brought that lamp into the office last week and gave it to me.  It’s a beautiful object and it sits on my desk – tempting me.