When you receive your child’s report this year, things might not look as clear as they once did. Having spent years getting your head around levels and sub-levels, I’m afraid they are no more. And as much as this might come as a shock to you, believe me, we as a profession were no more prepared for it.
It comes at a time when – as you’ll know – so much else has changed in our schools. Teachers the length and the breadth of the country have been doing our utmost to provide the smoothest and most effective transition for your child as we move from one national curriculum to another, but it hasn’t been easy.
It means that when you receive the report on the attainment of your child at the end of this academic year, the picture may look very different from the past. Children who were comfortably on track for their age will suddenly and unexpectedly appear to be falling behind. Those who were flying high may seem no longer to be.
Your child’s school may well try to explain this in its covering letter. Please be reassured that they are not simply covering their backs, or trying to paper over cracks. The reality is that the goalposts have moved so significantly that it has been impossible to keep on track. Your child may well have made excellent progress this year, and yet still be showing as not yet attaining the required standard.
Treat that with the caution it deserves.
Let me illustrate with an example. In the past, KS2 children who were achieving well in maths might have explored the notion of probability, allocating fractions to likelihoods of events and working out the chance of things occurring. All of that work is now ignored: the new curriculum does not include it, and so the attainment scores will not recognise it. That your child may well have excellent knowledge and skills in this area would count for nothing.
Instead, those same children are now expected quickly to fit in three years’ worth of fractions work that never previously existed. Content that was previously covered in Year 7 and 8, is suddenly now expected of our 10-year-olds. The issue is repeated for aspects across the subjects, and age ranges.
Be reassured too, that as a profession we don’t warn you of these things because we have low expectations or don’t want to strive for these new challenging goals. Already schools are doing their utmost to fill those gaps, to adjust their curricula, to provide the extra direction and support pupils need. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. And similarly, a four-year Programme of Study cannot be covered in 30 weeks.
In time, all of our children will work through the national curriculum at the expected rate, and numbers of children working at the expected standard will rise. This won’t be a reflection of some brilliant work achieved by the government, but rather of teachers adjusting what they teach to meet the new requirements.
So apologies, parents. We recognise that it’s confusing, indeed worrying in cases. We’ve been confused and worried too. Doubtless your child’s teacher will be able to reassure you of the progress they have made this year, and their school will be able to explain how they’ve set out to change things to meet the new requirements.
But this year more than ever, I’d urge you not to panic when you see the score, or tick-box, or highlighted grade. Take time to read the paragraphs so carefully drafted by your child’s teacher that highlight what your child has achieved and where they need to go next.
There is no need to presume that anyone has failed your child. As ever, teachers will be doing the best to provide the best possible education within the parameters set by the government. If you have worries, then of course, ask. As a profession we don’t yet have all the answers (we’re still waiting, too!) But the teachers who work with your child know much more about them than any grade, score or tick-box will ever tell you.
So read the report, take note of the assessments, but most importantly, think back to how your child has grown this year, and what they now know and can do that is new to them and you. And share your pride with them of what they have achieved.
Let us do the worrying about how we pull together the curriculum to meet their needs: we promise – we’re experts at it.
Teachers tackling the new curriculum and its assessment may find my free resources useful.