Monthly Archives: February 2014

The importance of curriculum design

I’ve been thinking about this blog for a while, sitting on drafts, deleting sections and re-writing parts. Then, this weekend, a conversation with @ClassroomTruths, @imagineinquiry, @misshorsfall and @rpd1972 among others, led to an impromptu decision for us each to publish blogs on the loosely-linked theme of topic planning.

I’ve spoken in the past about the importance of getting curriculum right for children, focussing particularly on writing, but increasingly I’m coming to feel that we wildly underestimate the importance of curriculum sequencing and design. This is probably partly because for a long time primary schools had that responsibility removed from them and usurped by the national strategies. But I don’t think the strategies got it right.

What’s more, I think the arguments are more subtle and more pressing than the choice between cross-curricular and subject-specific approaches. There are arguments on either side about the benefits of each approach, but I’m coming to feel that it’s rather like the choice between cooking on electric and gas. Personally, I prefer a gas hob and electric oven, but I don’t have any evidence to suggest that these lead to better cooking; just that I have a preference. Similarly, I’m yet to be persuaded by any argument that topic-led or discrete subject-led teaching is inherently better for learning.

So if it’s not that the bothers me, then what? I’m increasingly concerned about the choices we make to bind together the various elements of the curriculum, both within and across subjects. I’m certainly not against cross-curricular work. In fact, as a middle school teacher, I was always astounded how students in secondary schools would find a History department teaching medieval history in Year 7, but English departments keeping Chaucer back for Year 9; or Science departments trying to get children to interpret graphs without first checking whether it had been covered in maths! There is much to be said for an ‘inter-disciplinary’ relationship, whether taught by a common teacher or different ones. However, I’m not convinced that cross-curricular teaching is automatically a Good Thing.

Tim Taylor’s blog already covers some of the challenges of topic-based teaching. What I particularly want to consider is an issue that is significant even when subjects are taught discretely. After all, in many schools mathematics is taught discretely from most topics, and yet this is one of the areas I feel needs most attention. For too long the decisions about teaching of core subjects have been taken out of teachers’ hands and handed over to folders from the department. While the National Numeracy Strategy file had its strengths (the exemplification particularly), the centralised directing of objectives on a micro level absolved teachers of the responsibility for designing the curriculum other than in the narrowest sense. In both English and Maths, teachers have been told what to teach, and when to teach it, and so have given relatively little thought to sequencing the curriculum for their own students.

In some ways, teachers have attempted to develop cohesion through topic-led teaching, but the coherence that this offers can be illusory. While planning out a whole unit on the theme of Chocolate might seem attractive, does the content we incorporate provide the best possible teaching sequence for the children to learn? It’s common to jump from genre to genre as we find writing opportunities and reading texts that suit the topic, rather than finding topics that support the gradual progression of teaching. To return to the kitchen analogy, this seems to me rather like taking the ingredients of a good cake recipe, throwing it all in a bowl and hoping. Teachers need to take on the role of chef and cultivate the best combination of those ingredients, in the right order, and combined with the right techniques to create the most effect outcome.

Dan Willingham and others have explained how focussing on context can sometimes distract from content. We need to ensure that what our children are thinking about is the material we’re hoping they’ll learn. By building our focus entirely round a single idea, do we sometimes risk elevating the importance of the topic above that of the learning context.

But as I’ve said, the problem is not unique to topic-led curricula. At present our maths curriculum seems to be largely built around short blocks of content before skipping on to something else. As with other things, we find ourselves facing children who cannot remember things taught earlier in the same year, when we attempt to revisit in the second half of the year.

But as we move towards the new curriculum, teachers are going to have to take back some ownership for designing the curriculum. The old frameworks won’t cut it, not least because of the new content in areas such as fractions. What’s more, the old approach of a few weeks on fractions  each year, simply hasn’t proven enough to get children to really grasp their use. If we are to be able to raise children’s understanding and knowledge about fractions, then we need to have a clear pathway through that allows children to progress by embedding learning at each stage.

So, what am I proposing?

Well, firstly, not necessarily the scrapping of topics. After all, some humanities themes lend themselves to teaching particular genres of writing, or other aspects of the curriculum. However, I am suggesting that the starting point for all of our planning, at every level, should be the key learning objectives. And I don’t mean, selecting them from an annual list to tie into a topic, but selecting, grouping and sequencing the objectives first, and then seeing if their is any scope for linking ideas together across subjects. If a school gets its long-term plan right, then it can select themes which complement the central learning, rather than lead it.

I have shown in my previous post how I’ve used the Victorians theme to support the teaching of certain techniques in Writing. I can also see how many well-planned topics can lead to effective learning. But I also see many topic titles set out for a 6-week block (or longer!), with the topic acting as the main form of cohesion. That can’t be right? If we are planning in long blocks, then there ought to be a reason for that, and one which links to the core objectives we’re aiming to teach, not to the over-arching label which provides a title for displays.

The new curriculum provides an exciting opportunity for schools to really think deeply about how they organise their curriculum across the whole school, ensuring progression and cohesion through the core subjects as a priority. Go and grab it!

 

Other blogs on the matter of planning and topics are listed at http://primaryblogger1.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/blogs-on-topic-planning-for-and-against/

Advertisements

Hidden feedback

Feedback is a Good Thing. We are told this, and in lots of ways I’m certain it’s true. The research shows it, and the EEF Toolkit says it’s the one of the most cost-effective forms of ‘intervention’. It ought to be at the crux of what we’re trying to do. The comparison to the tennis coach is made often: that need to try something and have instant formative advice about what to do to improve.

Except… we do that all the time already, don’t we?

The problem is – as is so often the way – in the interpretation. It seems that for Ofsted, and probably SLTs across the country trying to satiate Ofsted, that feedback appears in a red pen1, and preferably with a response, or even better ‘a dialogue’. Imagine all those terrible schools where they’ve previously had no dialogue. Quiet.

What if things were reversed? Imagine the research showed that feedback were a Bad Thing. That Ofsted were tasked with the responsibility of rooting out feedback wherever it be found.2 How quickly might your classrooom be damned for excessive feedback? For even if all our red pens1 were taken away, aren’t our classrooms filled with feedback? Could you really get rid of all of these:

  • “Look at question 4 again.”
  • “Everybody stop… let’s look at this again.”
  • “Have you checked for full stops?”
  • “Check your own answers to questions 1 to 4 before you move on”
  • “Are you sure…?”

    It's what we do.

    It’s what we do.

  • “Now, when we tried this yesterday…”
  • “What would happen if…?”
  • “Check your column addition.”
  • “Is there a better word than…”
  • “Does that sentence make sense to you?”
  • “How could you make this better / easier for the reader / more frightening / more precise…?”
  • “Can you expand on that?”
  • “Can you use mathematical / scientific / geographical language to explain that in more detail?”
  • “Who got 34?”
  • “What happens to the decimal point?”
  • “Take another look at this paragraph / sentence.”
  • “Have you met all the success criteria?”
  • “You tell me.”
  • “Ahem.”
  • Checking your answer with a partner
  • Tapping on the book next to the missing capital letter
  • A raised eyebrow
  • A smile
  • Placing a dictionary / thesaurus on the desk

I’m sure there are a thousand more verbal and non-verbal cues we use every day. In fact, it’s a miracle that with ratios of 1:30 or more that so much individual feedback can be incorporated. I’d like to see a tennis coach compete with that.
No-one, to my knowledge, yet sells a “Non-verbal feedback given” stamper, but if we were to use these two stampers in real-time, with real frequency, the stamper companies would be selling them by the million. And that’s before we even begin to think about that most important of feedback cycles that goes on in the teacher’s mind (They’re not getting this; I need to explain that bit again; What other representation could I use?; Right, those groups are ready, these need something else…)

It’s just a matter of what you’re looking for.

Footnotes

1 Pen colours other than red are available.

2 I apologise for any inadvertent corruption of the subjunctive mood here; I only learned it in French.

All feedback welcome, naturally, non-verbal or otherwise.

More haste: more chaos!

I am finding it increasingly frustrating lately that so much of what is being changed in education at the moment is being rushed. It is too easy, sometimes, to complain about the politicisation of education, but these matters cannot be ignored: the haste with which policies are being changed is leading to confusion and disruption in the education system beyond that which is necessary.

Inevitably all change brings some upsets, but perhaps the worst risk of change is that a change – no matter how positive in theory – becomes a negative in and of itself because of the way it is driven.

And the examples are becoming plentiful.

Back last summer I pointed out the looming issue of children being taught and tested on different curricula because of the rush to push through the new National Curriculum.

Just this week, as I was working on some progression materials for the new primary curriculum, I stumbled across these two consecutive objectives from the new Programme of Study for Years 5 and 6 in English:

y56spellingSurely any amount of simple proof-reading or editing would have picked up that these two objectives, while very differently-worded, have essentially the same meaning?

Alongside the curriculum changes, we have proposed changes to assessment at the end of the Key Stage. Schools have been tasked with the creation of curriculum and assessment frameworks to meet the new requirements by September. However, as the NAHT report released a week ago points out, that leaves very little time for schools. That’s all the more significant given that the DfE has now had 4 months to respond to the consultation on primary assessment and has failed to do so. If the department, which presumably has staff specifically tasked with such things, cannot manage such speed, on what grounds does it expect schools to do so?

But the rush is not limited to the implementation of the new curriculum.

Blogger Andy Jolley has been relentless in his efforts (via his excellent blog) to hold the department (and the Deputy PM) to account for their actions in implementing the proposed free schools meals for infants programme. It has been dogged with alterations (the “hot” seems to have disappeared) and rushed decisions. That was further highlighted today when he asked a question of the department:

Once again, it is clear that in the rush to be seen to implement a politically-decided policy, the department itself cannot keep up with the pace required. Forced to rush through arrangements for academies to apply for funding, and yet unable to indicate to schools – who will be in the throes of preparing budgets – exactly how the funding will work for this hasty plan!

It seems that the haste extends beyonds the bounds of the department, too. Much has been said in the last couple of days about the meeting of some well-known bloggers with officials from Ofsted. As David Didau posted in his blog on the meeting:

On the subject of lesson grading, he said, boldly, categorically and unequivocally that inspectors should not be grading individual lessons, and they should not be arriving at a judgment for teaching and learning by aggregating lesson grades.

At first this seems to have been music to the ears of many: official word that lesson grading shouldn’t be happening in inspections, and the implication that schools should cease the practice immediately.

Except the words of the official from that meeting don’t seem to match with the evidence from the documentation that guides inspectors in their work.

It is true that the handbook for school inspection is clear that aggregated grades from lesson observations should not be used to reach the overall teaching judgement:

handbook119

However, it is clearly noteworthy that the implication is that such grades would exist. This implication is further supported by a statement earlier in the handbook about reaching such judgements:

handbook31Once again, the guidance is clear that grades of some sort will be recorded to support judgements. The note that indicates that short observations might not be graded clearly implies that longer observations (i.e. those of 25 minutes or more) will be.

The implication is further supported in the subsidiary guidance:

guidance66Once again, the suggestion is clear that grades should be shared, and the statement is repeated in paragraph 67 that such grades should not be aggregated. (Once again, the spectre of poor proof-reading appears to raise its head in paragraph 67, too!)

It seems that the rush for change – even if it is supported by many teachers – seems to be causing confusion. How are Additional Inspectors in schools meant to act? In accordance with the guidance in writing, or the broader messages that seem to be emanating from the centre?

And so continues the same problem. This isn’t an argument for the de-politicisation of education. Far from it. However, it is a plea for a little less haste in making change: it’s clearly becoming unmanageable!

Are plans for post-levels assessment developing, meeting or exceeding expectations?

This week the NAHT published its report into the new assessment landscape following the abandonment of National Curriculum levels. Impressive, really, considering the fact that the DfE still hasn’t managed to provide its report on the consultation that closed four months ago!

The NAHT committee had much of sense to say, but I didn’t agree with all of it. I agree that it makes sense for schools to work in clusters to create and share assessment processes; I agree that we need a clear lead from the DfE & Ofsted on how we are to use whatever processes are put in place; I agree that assessment should be based on specified criteria, rather than simply ranking pupils; I also agree that it is unreasonable to expect schools to have everything in place for September, and so the interim use of levels is probably unavoidable, and perhaps even advisable for a short period.

It’s worth noting here that David Thomas (@dmthomas90) has written an excellent blog summarising his views on the report, and I agree with the vast majority of what he says about its strengths and weaknesses, although we disagree on the solution!

In particular, I welcomed the NAHT’s recommendation that whatever systems schools use, they should ensure that they

“assess pupils against assessment criteria, which are short, discrete, qualitative and concrete descriptions of what a pupil is expected to know and be able to do.”

The new National Curriculum – particularly at primary level – makes it clear what is expected to be taught in each phase, and in many cases in each year group for the core subjects. This helps to provide a starting point for identifying those assessment criteria. [Note 1]

However, where I part company from the NAHT report and others who have recommended similar processes is in the following recommendation:

“Each pupil is assessed as either ‘developing’, ‘meeting’ or ‘exceeding’ each relevant criterion contained in our expectations for that year.”

At first glance, this seems a reasonable suggestion, and is fairly based on the evidence that the NAHT received that there was little appetite for a simple binary system. However, what concerns me is that we will end up with a poor hybrid assessment vehicle. There are a couple of reasons for this.

Firstly, I suspect that the reason teachers were so reluctant to consider a “binary” is because of their long experience of sub-levels in the current system. Progress is hard to demonstrate across a whole national curriculum levels, and so the bastard sub-levels were introduced. However, if the NAHT proposal that criteria are “short, discrete, qualitative and concrete“, then this issue should not remain. Secondly, I suspect that by adding such vague statements as “developing”, we risk corrupting the most effective aspect of such a system.

Take, as an example, a simple objective that might be counted as short, discrete, qualitative and concrete. A school might include one criterion that a child can recall the 6x table. It seems that most of us could agree that this could be demonstrated by responding to random quick-fire questions as have been used for centuries. However, at what stage do we argue that a child is “developing” this skill? When they can count on in sixes mentally? When they can count up in sixes aloud? When they can recall at least half of the tables up to 12? And similarly, what constitutes exceeding that objective? Surely once you can do it, you move on to new objectives?

The only reason I can see for the developing/meeting/exceeding sub-grades is if we replace the current system of levels with a system of… well, levels. But even then, the criteria become too vague. After all, one objective then might be knowledge and recall of all tables to 12×12. But you could argue that as soon as a child counts in 2s, they are beginning to develop that knowledge. And when might we consider them exceeding it? When they learn the 13x table?

The major downfall of levels, in my opinion, was that their broadness became a failing when we moved to increasingly regular measures of progression. If we end up with statements that are so broad as to require splitting into thirds in the way proposed, then we might just as well simply update the levels.

So, what do I suggest as an alternative? Well, not for the first time, I’m going to suggest looking back to the National Numeracy Strategy of the late 1990s. The strategies were responsible for a lot of nonsense, but the NNS had a couple of real strengths, one of the greatest of which was its exemplification pages.

Extract from the NNS exemplification pages on Written Calculations

Extract from the NNS exemplification pages on Written Calculations

These pages not only provided examples for teachers to explore the ways in which statements could be interpreted (which is often the first challenge of interpreting a curriculum document), but more importantly they provided an overview of progression across year groups. It made it clear for teachers where their next steps were when children had met a particular outcome, and where steps could be put in place for those struggling.

If the NAHT is to go ahead with its proposal to work on a model document to create suitable assessment criteria, then hopefully it might begin too see that such an approach could be far more meaningful than the vague descriptors of development/meeting/exceeding.

A progression of key strands across the subject may run the risk of re-inventing the many attainment targets of of the late 1980s, but short measurable objectives could be organised in a manner to support progression and support teachers in identifying how best to support students who might be deemed to be ‘developing’ or ‘exceeding’ common objectives for the year groups.

Some examples of objectives organised as possible outcomes in a progression for primary schools are shown:

Progression examples in the core subjects

Progression examples in the core subjects

It is very much a hastily knocked-up suggestion, far from a finished model. In an ideal world, groups of experts and specialists could work together to organise progression documents like the NNS example which could genuinely support teachers, and provide a framework of assessment exemplifications.

It would certainly be far more purposeful than simply using vague verbs to break up content.

[Note 1] Of course, much of this work might have been avoided if the DfE had followed the recommendation of the Expert Panel that it set up. Its recommendation is perfect:

Programmes of Study could then be presented in two parallel columns. A narrative, developmental description of the key concept to be learned (the Programme of Study) could be represented on the left hand side. The essential learning outcomes to be assessed at the end of the key stage (the Attainment Targets) could be represented on the right hand side. This would better support curriculum-focused assessment.

Pointless Geography

Thanks to all those who helped put together my “Pointless” geography quiz tonight. After a re-tweet from Richard Osman I got over 600 responses in less than 2 hours, so in the end I used percentages to allocate the scores.

For those who were interested, I’ve attached the powerpoint that contains correct answers and the estimated scores. If you want to play along with others, you have to click on the blank points oval to reveal each one.

Geography Challenge

Cohesion in the teaching of Writing

I posted a blog back in October about my view that perhaps there is something more we could take from the ‘mastery’ model of learning that would apply to English. Since then I have worked with the idea and am increasingly feeling that the way in which the average primary school teaches Writing objectives could be better organised to provide a cohesive programme of learning for students.

Two key threads have run through my thinking in the past few months: ‘de-contextualisation’ and ‘transferability’.

Firstly, many primary school teachers are happy with the concept that learning objectives ought to be ‘de-contextualised’, as widely promoted by Shirley Clarke and others. Now, it happens that I don’t always and entirely agree with this. In fact, I very rarely agree with any systems that stipulate unbreakable rules for teaching. Nevertheless, there is much to value in the idea that learning objectives should focus clearly on the intended learning of knowledge or skills, rather than simply learning ‘about’ a theme. Examples often stated include ideas like replacing “To write instructions for making a sandwich” with “To write instructions”.

I happen to think that such a change is generally positive. It focuses the child (and teacher) on the particular teaching and learning that is intended. After all, the sandwich-making really is just a context in which to develop knowledge and understanding of the instruction genre itself.

However, one of the arguments in support of such a change is that it develops transferable learning. Others more knowledgeable than me (Daisy Christodoulou, Daniel Willingham, Harry Webb, etc.) have discussed and demonstrated frequently the challenges of transferring learning, and it seems that the cognitive evidence is clear that transfer is considerably more difficult than it might appear. So if the learning cannot be transferred, is ‘de-contextualising’ objectives worth it?

In fact, I think we need to go a step further – at least as children get older. I think we can take the advantages of ‘de-contextualising’ learning and combine it with some of what we know about mastery to try to build up more secure knowledge in our students about how to write well.

Currently, it seems that the vast majority of primary schools organise the curriculum around ‘topics’ or ‘themes’. For example, I will be teaching “Victorians” after half term. Teachers go to some lengths to select writing opportunities and genres which fit well with the theme, presumably in an effort to provide some sense of cohesion.

However, this leads to that same problem of valuing context over content. Inspectors and Senior Leaders are now well used to asking children “what are you learning?”, and while in an individual lesson a student may be able to point to specific objective, over the half-term or term, it is very much the context which dominates. In Writing this can often mean students tackling 4 or 5 different genres across a half-term which leap from one technique to another, while providing only the cohesion of a humanities theme.

What I propose, and indeed have started to do in my own class, is that we need to adjust the balance. Not throw out topics – far from it – but think a little more carefully about how we provide a clearer picture of learning for our students. After all, if a child writes a persuasive advert for a schoolbag in the autumn term, what hope have they of applying those common skills in a persuasive argument about Victorian child labour, if we haven’t made clear to them that persuasion has some common features whatever the context?

I have tried to focus all of my over-arching Writing themes on writing for a purpose, in the sense of affecting the reader in some ways. I think this is useful because it can link so clearly to their own reading, but also because I feel that purpose is at the heart of understanding how to write effectively.

So, back to my Victorians theme. Rather than selecting writing genres which provide nice topic-links, I have selected topic-links which provide effective learning links. I have selected as my over-arching theme “Influencing the reader”. We will teach four main writing texts, all of which focus on affecting the viewpoint of the reader, with some common strands regardless of the specific outcome. Of course, this may change as we progress through the unit, but the intention is that it will include:

Persuasive Article – extolling the virtues of a “new” Victorian invention (perhaps in a competition for best invention of the 19th Century?)
Descriptive Writing – based on aspects of Oliver Twist, using vocabulary particularly to create a sense of place (such as on entering Fagin’s Den)
Formal Persuasive Letter – applying for a servant’s position (based on our visit to a local Victorian Manor house)
Informal personal letter – writing home about the hard labour of being in service

Each of these texts would often be found in a “Victorians” topic, so the change is not radical. What is different is the selection of the texts around a common theme. Over the course of the half-term, we will be able to clearly draw out the common threads of writing to influence the reader. It means that by Easter I expect children to both know and apply their knowledge of how to affect the reader’s point of view. They should recognise that they can do this through well-selected vocabulary to accentuate positives/negatives accordingly; that they can use connective phrases to add further evidence, or contrasting detail to support their point; that selection of the appropriate tone is important in achieving your intended effect.

Hopefully this knowledge will be related more closely to the purpose of the writing than the specific genres, so that a persuasive newspaper article, or leaflet, or debate argument in the future becomes linked to those “influence the reader” techniques, more than to previous newspapers, leaflets or arguments.

Significantly, by organising writing into ‘themes’ such as this, target-setting and monitoring can become much more effective. I have long been disappointed by the willingness to set targets for students which they either cannot understand, or will not have sufficient opportunity to apply. This structure will allow me to set targets which specifically link to the focus of our work over the half term. For some of my low level 3 writers that might be using adjectives to expand on descriptions in a positive or negative way, while some of those working towards level 5 might begin to use nominalization for effect (This tragedy…) or make use of well-selected purposeful vocabulary. They will all have opportunities to use and apply those skills over the course of the unit enough times to secure their understanding of what is being asked of them.

What’s more, where intervention is needed for those students who are not picking up the learning, there will be scope for quick identification, intervention and perhaps most importantly, further opportunities to apply and embed that learning before racing on to something completely new.

Of course, this isn’t going to transform writing overnight. But hopefully it might go some way to tackling the challenges of transferral of learning, as well as securing much clearer understanding of what has been learned and how and when it can be used again in the future.

As schools prepare for changing their units of work to meet the requirements of the new curriculum, perhaps considering how the focus on Writing can move from topic links to genre links might help to support students in mastering the skills of good writing across a range of genres.

FAQ: New Primary Curriculum

As lots of schools start to prepare for the introduction of the new curriculum, the re-drafts and rushed implementation have left some questions. This post attempts to answer some of the most frequently-asked. If your question isn’t answered here, then Twitter is always a good place to ask!

When do you have to start teaching the new curriculum?

The curriculum becomes statutory from September 2014 for all primary year groups except for the core subjects in Years 2 and 6. In Years 2 and 6 the old (1999) curriculum remains statutory for one more year to allow for assessment using the current style of KS2 tests in the Summer of 2016.

Does everything need to change?

The whole of the National Curriculum will be replaced from September 2014. However, this doesn’t automatically mean that all plans need changing. PSHE and Citizenship lessons are not statutory, and so are not affected. Similarly, RE falls outside the scope of the National Curriculum, so schools should continue to use plans matched to the locally-agreed syllabus.

Not all subjects will require drastic change. See the following blogs about what does, and does not, need to change:

Is there any scheme like the National Strategies to support schools?

The government has been clear that it does not intend to roll out a national support scheme. However, some curriculum organisations have taken a lead on providing resources for the new curriculum to support schools. The DfE also suggests that schools liaise with a nearby Teaching School Alliance.

The www.primarycurriculum.me.uk website contains a page with links to subject organisations that provide support for the new curriculum.

Do teachers have to follow the year-by-year programmes of study?

Many sections of the new primary curriculum are set out by year group, or paired year groups. However, the statutory basis of the National Curriculum (under the Education Act 2002 and subsequent legislation) does not permit the government to specify curriculum content other than by key stage. Therefore, the new curriculum allows schools to move content around within each key stage. Thus any content set out by year group can be considered ‘advisory’ sequencing.

What about mixed age classes?

No specific guidance has been provided by the DfE or its agencies for covering the curriculum with mixed age classes. Some specific advice has been provided by Leadership organisation The Key and can be accessed from their website at http://www.usethekey.org.uk/curriculum-and-learning/curriculum-post-2014/primary-curriculum-post-2014/draft-primary-curriculum-managing-mixed-age-classes (free no obligation trial available)

How much time should each subject be taught for?

No amount of time is specified in the curriculum or its accompanying guidance. The legislation does not permit the Secretary of State to make such specifications. It is for schools to decide what time should be given to each subject, or how it should be organised. Schools can continue to use cross-curricular teaching, so long as they cover the Programmes of Study specified for each key stage.

What will KS2 National Curriculum tests be like in 2014 and 2015?

There have been some changes to National Curriculum tests at KS2 for 2014. This includes a change to the structure of the Reading Paper, and the change to the combination of papers for Mathematics.  The Reading paper will no longer follow a theme, but will have three separate texts of increasing difficulty to be tackled in order. In mathematics, there will no longer be a calculator paper, although there will continue to be two papers. There is more detail about all the KS2 tests on the DfE website.

Tests in 2015 will be broadly similar to those in 2014, based on the 1999 National Curriculum.

Will children have to sit a calculator paper, just without a calculator?

Despite much confusion around this area, the DfE appeared to confirm earlier this year that the new test papers for 2014 have been written since the decision was made to remove the calculator paper. Therefore, children will not be faced with questions intended for calculator use.

[tweet 425233604289916928 hide_thread=”true”]

What’s happening to levels?

As since the National Curriculum was introduced, levels have only been part of statutory assessment at the end of each key stage. This will continue until the summer of 2015, when KS1 and KS2 results will be recorded using levels for the final time. There is no requirement to use National Curriculum levels to assess in any other year group or at any other time.

Under the new rules, schools are free to choose their own approaches to assessment for the curriculum, although a new system of outcomes will be in place for Y2/Y6 from Summer 2016.

What will replace levels at the end of the Key Stage?

The government consulted on assessment and accountability for primary schools in the autumn of 2013. This included proposals for assessment in Early Years, and a system of scaled scores at the end of KS2, with a possibility of ranking students in deciles. The results are of the consultation are expected in the spring of 2014. Until these are known, we cannot be certain of the new assessment processes.

What is an algorithm?

There has been much discussion of the major changes in the Computing (ICT) curriculum. However, many of these changes are less significant than first appears. One teachers are familiar with the language of the Programme of Study they will come to recognise familiar content from the curriculum. For example, an algorithm is simply a sequence of instructions for carrying out a particularly task, such as programming a simple Roamer or Beebot device. There is some excellent advice and support available on understanding the new Computing curriculum from various subject associations.

Must we teach History in chronological order?

The draft proposals for the National Curriculum originally indicated that history must be taught chronologically. This requirement was relaxed in the final version. Primary Schools must now cover history up to 1066, but it is for schools to decide how this is organised. The Programme of Study states that children should “continue to develop a chronologically secure knowledge and understanding of British, local and world history” during Key Stage 2.