Monday, 21 March 2016

Assessment without levels- what do the children think?

So much talk about the impact of the new ‘assessment beyond levels’ .  So much confusion over the new expectations and interim assessment guidelines.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the constant stream of news updates/myths/scaremongering. 
What about the children?
In particular, the ones who are going to be taking the SATs in a few short weeks? How do they feel about all of this?
 I decided that to directly ask my class would not be the most useful way to go about this- and it is my job to protect them from all the changes and concentrate on the job in hand- teaching them! Helping them to improve and be the best they can be.
Instead I have talked to some Year 6 children about what they enjoy about being in Year 6, how they feel about the tests and the changes from levels to the new system.
This is a summary of their main points.
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NOTE:  CHILDREN SPOKEN TO WERE HAPPY TO HAVE THEIR VIEWS SHARED AS ARE THEIR PARENTS. THEY ARE FROM A VARIETY OF SCHOOLS AROUND ENGLAND. THIS IS PURELY TO SHARE A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON THE CURRENT SITUATION IN SCHOOLS. NONE OF THESE CHILDREN ARE AT THE SCHOOL I TEACH IN .


What is good about being in Year 6?
Trips
Being the oldest
Having more responsibilities
The tests
Getting to spend time at the secondary school to find out what it is like
Reading
Maths
Lessons
The teachers



What isn’t so good about Year 6?
More homework
Worried about secondary school
Having lots of jobs to do
Last year at my school
Harder work
The tests

How do you feel about the changes?
I like the work being harder
I was in a year 5/6 class last year and we are doing more than last year 6 did
Too many spellings
I don’t like all the SPaG work
I used to know what level I was and what I needed to do to get the next one. I had a list of the things I had to work on. Now there aren’t levels (but some of the teachers still use them) I don’t really know how well I am doing. I know how many marks I get, and I try to get more next time, but I don’t know if that will be enough.
It’s annoying because the teachers don’t really know if we are doing well or not.
Well last year my friends knew what level they were and what level they were going to try to get to. This year none of us know what level we are. I know what I can and can’t do well. I’ve got a list of things to do to help me improve, but I don’t know how well I’m doing compared to my friends who have gone up to secondary school.
***

So, what has this told me? That levels were used to let children know how they were doing and where they needed to go next, that the children actually quite liked them. 
Has it told me anything I wasn’t expecting? Not really, but it has further highlighted the enormous impact that constant interference from ministers has on our education system. As a teacher, it is my job to teach my class to make progress, to build and develop existing skills, to learn new ones, to become independent thinkers, to question, to be curious, to have a thirst for knowledge and learning, to have the tools they need in order to be ready and resilient when taking on challenges.  (There are of course lots more , but these are the ones that spring most readily to mind). Not forgetting time to have a bit of fun in between all that too !

And that it is unsettling for the children who , despite the very best intentions of their teachers, are anxious about how well they are doing. I’m doing all I can to reassure my class about their progress, where they are , what they can /can’t do, what they need to do to make progress- all the things that teachers have always and will always do. But, it’s tough on this first group of Y6 children in particular. 

So, what is the answer? Say that everyone has met A.R.E (whatever that ends up looking like?)
Saying that no one has?
Thinking of a number and saying that a random % has? 
Exactly- none of these are satisfactory solutions.
 Chucking the whole lot in the bin?
 No!

Honesty and consistency is what is needed. The new A.R.E is NOT (despite what some have said) ‘roughly equivalent to a 4B’. They are more like a level 5.

One clear message needs to be given to ALL schools to clarify this. Teacher assessments are fairly/completely (select preferred option) meaningless with no idea of thresholds and are a guess at best.


I would like to think that things will get better. In the meantime, like every other year 6 teacher I shall carry on helping my class to be the best that they can be and keeping it real.  There is so much more to life than SATs. :-)

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