When the DfE first announced its Assessment Innovation Fund, I began to wonder whether any schools would yet be in a position to share an assessment scheme for a new curriculum that had only been in the public domain for a few months. Fortunately enough schools were able to start the process, leading to 9 being chosen to disseminate their work.
Only three of those schemes are intended for use in primary schools, although of course some of the secondary and special schemes are likely to be adaptable.
At this stage, only some elements of each of the schemes have been released, but as Ofsted release their views on how assessment without levels will be tackled in inspection, I thought it timely to offer some sort of review of what is on offer.
Learning Ladders (Hiltingbury Junior)
NB: Since the time of Writing, Hiltingbury have withdrawn from the funded AIF scheme, although the materials are still available via the link below.
This scheme focuses on the core subjects of Reading, Writing and Maths, offering booklets of objectives linked to the new National Curriculum, organised into categories, and then graded by year group. The Reading and Writing booklets are already available, designed to be printed on A4 and covering the whole of KS1 and KS2. I understand that adapted separate booklets for younger and older pupils will be available later.
Against each objective (or “rung”) are three boxes to be signed/dated by the teacher when a child has shown that they have met the objective. The school suggests that once the objective has been signed three times then it can be considered to be ‘achieved’.
The booklets have been professionally produced with robot characters in both colour and black & white versions, allowing schools to conceal the year-group labels (not to mention saving on colour copying costs!)
The school has also entered into the partnership with SchoolExplained to produce an online system both for adapting the booklets, and for recording assessment online. This will be sold to schools from around £700
When considered against the ‘7 questions‘ test it fares very well, particularly in its usefulness for sharing with children. It also does a good job of keeping objectives to a manageable number, although it remains to be seen if they’ve done the same for maths. Perhaps my only concern is the stipulation of seeing things three times. This is a common approach in primary schools with APP and I’ve always found it a touch too formulaic. Sometimes 3 times is not enough, sometimes it’s an excessive demand. I’d prefer to see objectives simply left as un-highlighted until the teacher decides they’re achieved, or perhaps just a two-stage process of working on/achieved?
More information and the free booklets can be found at www.learningladders.info
Skills Passport (Hillyfield Primary)
The Hillyfield scheme appears to focus on the foundation subjects, which is likely to be a lesser concern for primary schools in the immediate future, although the information released suggests that maths may also be covered.
As with the Learning ladders, the intention is to provide a single booklet for all students throughout the compulsory primary years to record progress across subjects. In this case, rather than rungs on ladders the skills are set out in a passport style to be stamped by the children once they have been achieved.
The initial drafts of the passports have been made available and are not as attractive as the Hiltingbury Learning ladders. However, they are in editable Word format, and so could be adapted to each school. They include some useful features such as a glossary of vocabulary for subjects. Perhaps because these are intended for foundation subjects, the objectives are only organised by Key Stage rather than year group, although if it has been adapted for core subjects then this may be different. It isn’t clear from the fund information provided whether core passports will be created.
As with Hiltingbury, the school has said that it intends to make an online version available in due course. However, as Sam Hunter of Hiltingbury Junior has stated: that’s an expensive operation not easily funded by the £10,000 AIF grant.
When considered against the ‘7 questions‘ test it fares very well, particularly in its usefulness for sharing with children. It also does a good job of keeping objectives to a manageable number. I did notice that the objectives in the current passports are not as clearly linked to the new National Curriculum content, although again in the case of the foundation subjects this is much harder to do.
It would be interesting to see how this model could be adapted using the key objectives documents I have set out for Writing and Maths.
The first sample booklet is available to download from: www.tes.co.uk
Learning Ladders (West Exe College)
Another ladder offer, this time from a secondary school. According to the DfE release the school has collaborated with primary schools to create a cross-phase system. However, at this stage it seems that only Secondary materials have been released.
The model is very different from the Hiltingbury ladders, focussing more on a link to Bloom’s taxonomy. It appears that the intention is to provide a common format for ladders for each subject and key stage. This suggests that subjects will each be broken into 6 levels across the key stage, ranging from ‘Remembering’ to ‘Creating’. Criteria for each level are based on existing materials and grade criteria.
The model also shows individual assessment grids, although again these are clearly aimed at KS3/4 at present. It’s not clear how easily this model could be adapted to suit work at primary level, nor how the criteria could link clearly enough to the National Curriculum, particularly for content-heavy subjects such as mathematics.
The documents clearly avoid the meaningless subdivision of content to an extent, although there is a risk that the reliance on Bloom’s taxonomy could lead to a focus on “creating” at the expense of the important skills of “remembering” and “understanding”. It’s also not entirely clear how well this model could work at primary level. These grids have clearly been designed for able readers as would be reasonable to expect of most secondary students – it remains to be seen whether the partnership managing this model manage to produce a useful and effective approach that would work in primary schools.
First release information from the West Exe model is available at www.tes.co.uk
Information about assessment systems is being collated in various places, including the useful website http://assessmentwithoutlevels.com/