This year we have needed to moderate our assessments of children’s attainment and progress at Christ the Sower with a great deal more care, because we have spent two an a half years designing, testing out and applying an assessment system that is both rigorous and as fair as we can make it.
The work has been led by an assessment group that deliberately did not include me – I just laid down the criteria in 2014 that were consistent with the approach we needed. By the summer of 2015 we had a good set of assessment descriptors written by the group for writing and maths and then in 2016 they were joined by an assessment framework for reading. This year, when time permits, we will present a mostly-written assessment framework for physical education, and then as the year progresses, we will develop one for science and for RE.
This has all been fundamental to our approach that children make progress in a clear way and are able to be evaluated for their learning and progress in a way that is both true to the way we teach and what we believe about teaching, but also that is measurable. It is the measuring that has prompted the moderation, as it must do in any system.
We are holding, as part of a fuller approach to looking at impact of teaching and learning on children, a series of meetings with teachers this month that have been among the most significant we have ever held, I believe.
Last summer we began to use the metaphor of “changing gear” to describe our strong efforts to deepen and strengthen the impact of teachers, and the series of meetings we have held last week, this week and next have been the first concrete evidence of the enormous impact that teachers are having for good on our children. They are the evidence of the craft, if you will, of the teaching process, and the whole of our teachers’ fantastic intentional practice is brought to bear.
The format is somewhat challenging for teachers – the year group team meet with an SLT subset of head, deputy head, assistant head, lead for maths and lead for English, for two full hours and tell us what their impact on children has been. They talk about the children that they have seen the greatest impact on in both writing and maths, and then (with a few days preparation – some bring notes) they talk about children that are on the SEN register, that are eligible for Pupil Premium, those more able, and if time, others as well identified by the SLT. I never had to do anything remotely like this in all my years as a teacher.
It is challenging, but collegiate. I have worked hard, as have the rest of the SLT, to make these meetings as collegiate as they possible can be, as discursive and respectful and encouraging as we can. And so far, over 8 hours of discussion, it has worked beyond anything I could have hoped for. I chair the meetings and minute them in detail, so that every action that the teacher has taken has been recorded and will be part of an evidence base of good practice for ourselves, for future years, and for OFSTED, as the latter will turn up sooner or later and the documents we produce at these meetings contain far more precise and better reasoned arguments for progress than anything that the mostly laughable RaiseOnline can demonstrate.
Listening to teachers talk about the impact of the measures that they have taken, been coached in, learned from others, etc upon their children, has been amazing and inspiring, and I could, if it were not for the work that I had to in writing everything down, in what now officially passes for the world’s most illegible handwriting ever, have listened to them all day.
What was particularly interesting, especially with Y4 and 5 teachers last week, was challenging teachers to be absolutely responsible for the actions they had taken for good, and to help them articulate their own craftsmanship. The passive voice was rejected in favour of the active voice; “children learned” was rejected in favour of “I taught” and where it was not obvious to a teacher exactly how a pupil had made the progress that they had worked with, careful listening by SLT members helped define exactly what the aspects of teaching were that had led to the change. We listened to the love that teachers had for the children they teach, and saw how that love was translated into the provision of wonderful teaching and deeply creative approaches to ensuring progress, using all the resources at their disposal.
A process that was both honourable of everyone’s best efforts and skill whilst producing such high-quality evidence of progress, has justified fully the investment in terms of the supply teacher costs needed, and is a wonderful addition to the armoury of tools we use to help children and teachers feel fully part of our school community.
Oh, and whilst I am talking about wonderful things – the letter from Sarah Hubbard HMI inspecting Germander Park School in Conniburrow has been published following their inspection last month. We have partnered with Germander Park since Verity Stobart’s appointment as headteacher there in September 2014, and whilst the work is all hers and her team’s, we can take a rich satisfaction in the good outcome she has earned with hard work and passion, and not a little worry, too! Tracey, Christ the Sower’s director of learning, has been involved in developing Talk for Writing across the school and took a full part in the inspection process. This is a key passage from the “report”:
You and your leaders are driven by a very strong sense of moral purpose. Staff ensure that the school’s inclusive ethos is put into practice. You rightly identify that a significant number of pupils have substantial barriers to learning, including joining the school with very little or no understanding of English. However, you and your staff are totally dedicated to providing what is needed for pupils to overcome any barriers and succeed. Pupils spoke of their pride in the school and how they ‘love it when others follow the school’s values’. The atmosphere in school is purposeful but also full of life and joy. You are not complacent and constantly review the impact of all the assistance you provide. This assistance is multifaceted and involves effective partnerships with external providers and local schools, as well as training for parents.
As Psalm 20 says: We will shout for joy when we see you victorious, and will lift up our banners in the name of our God!
Consider banners lifted! Well done to all at Germander Park – a hard-fought-for and fully deserved outcome!