Can we have the important stuff now, please?

Dear colleagues at the department,

Thanks for sending out those documents about the maths exemplification. They look lovely – although perhaps in the rush to get them out before the deadline, the proof reading went a bit astray. I guess it must have turned out to be harder to put together than you’d hoped.

Or maybe, like us, for KS2 your real focus has been on the high stakes Writing exemplification that will have such an impact on schools, teachers and school leaders. Doubtless you’ve been put in a difficult position having to pull something together in such a hurry, and with such a stringent list of criteria: it must be quite a challenge to find evidence for all the aspects required, particularly as some are quite uncommon in decent writing. We share your worry on that front entirely, I assure you.

And what an operation it must be to coordinate all the efforts of relevant people within the department and outside it to try to create something that will be useful and comprehensible. You must have quite the team – and all for the sake of that one little document.

That’s not to mention the technical detail on progress measures. No wonder you’ve had to leave half of it unexplained. Who really knows what the Writing outcomes will look like until we see the exemplification? But then… you do have control over that bit too, don’t you, I suppose?

In some ways, your situation is as bad as ours. I mean, as a classroom teacher in Year 6, I don’t have to be worrying about compiling all this evidence from a range of pupils across the country to try to exemplify the expected standards.
Although… in some ways, trying to compile that same evidence for every one of my pupils, might be seen to be even more of a challenge, one might think.

Why is it, by the way, that you use evidence from different pupils’ work? Wouldn’t it be easier for you to use the work of one child? And perhaps more representative?
But what do I know?

I also don’t have the worry of coordinating lots of colleagues to reach the final product. I will have the luxury of being able to reach those judgements alone, with just your documentation for company. But don’t worry – there’ll be plenty of people to check up on me afterwards. I’ll soon know about it if I get it wrong.

By the way – what happens if the moderator doesn’t agree with the judgements I’ve made for the sample?  Sorry… I keep bothering you with questions, but… it’s just… the stakes are quite high for us.

Anyway, I should go. I’m sure you’re busy. It’s probably just like us: just before these big deadlines we end up working all hours at night and weekends. I bet you’re the same, aren’t you, trying to get everything ready for the end of the month? We all just have to work to these crazy deadlines that the department set and… oh… except… of course… you set your own, so I guess you can change them if you want. Which must be nice.

Well, I’m sure we’ll see it when you’re good and ready. At least we can be assured that if there are any “significant changes” coming up that we’d get at least a year’s notice. Although, you have to wonder… if all this isn’t significant….?

All the best


For those who are interested in the maths exemplification documents, they can be found here: KS1 and KS2

For those who think I might be a bit mean to the poor people working at the department (and you’re probably right), don’t forget my fanmail to them here.




20 thoughts on “Can we have the important stuff now, please?

  1. housestillstanding 29 January 2016 at 8:44 pm Reply

    Gaaaaaaah! I am so angry about all of this I cannot form a coherent sentence. As an RI school this is all massively high stakes for us and it is all SUCH a mess…with no apologies, no recognition of the difficulties for schools and we all know who will end up being blamed come results time. Knowing the number of days in a month is a Y3 objective, DfE. Shame you don’t seem to know when the end of January actually is…

  2. carolinemoore2014 30 January 2016 at 12:04 am Reply

    Shameful! Whilst we lose sleep and worry about the outcomes of this year! Changes made to dates and criteria without direct notification. A system that seems to be devised on the hoof! When we know what the “Scaled Scores” are and how they will compare to KS1 results?

  3. abusyperson 30 January 2016 at 1:54 pm Reply

    As an ex project manager now Primary teacher, when I try to explain to ex colleagues the lack of any coherence in planning or approach they just cannot conceive that this is how education is being managed. The uncertainty, the removal of one set of deadlines and standards before anything else has been developed let alone made available. They neither remember nor seem to care that the result of this process they are fudging is the education of our children.

  4. ks1blog 30 January 2016 at 4:53 pm Reply

    I have no words!!!

  5. Paula Trahern 31 January 2016 at 7:17 pm Reply

    Not only as a teacher but as the parent of a Y6 (reasonably intelligent) child this whole debacle makes me feel sick.

  6. vanessawesterwriter 31 January 2016 at 10:11 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Vanessa Wester.

  7. claris2012 2 February 2016 at 2:28 pm Reply

    Michael. Thank you for making us laugh during our staff meeting. We will no doubt cry too, probably when we are at home alone trying to make sense out of all this mayhem. Anyway, I can’t find another way to reach you (I could Tweet but I’m not a big user and I’ve lost my password…). I wanted to thank you for all the fantastic work you do, on behalf of all primary schools – I look forward to your ramblings every week in my inbox. But I want to ask you about your explanation of progress measures in your short film on You Tube – I don’t understand how this can work. What if there is only one child in the class with an overall APS of, say, 10.3 at KS1 – you have no one to measure her against?? And what if said child achieves a higher KS2 score than the group who scored, say, an average of 10.7 at KS1 – how is her progress measured?
    Sorry, it might just be me not understanding this but I want to show your film to my staff and I don’t think I can until I can articulate it accurately. Would be great if you could let me know. Many thanks

    • Michael Tidd 2 February 2016 at 2:32 pm Reply

      Sorry – think I didn’t make that clear enough. When grouping children by APS, they’re compared to all other pupils nationally with that APS score

  8. claris2012 2 February 2016 at 3:20 pm Reply

    Well that makes a lot more sense – should have ‘read’ that! Thank you.

  9. Welly191 2 February 2016 at 6:18 pm Reply


  10. hajra 3 February 2016 at 9:36 pm Reply

    Hi Michael, I need some clarification on a point I belive I know… but hoping I’m wrong. When collecting evidence for writing, does it have to be for each pupil and does it have to be dated with supported and independent sign posted? I was at the ks 2 conference in Brum and saw the the table you put together for the back of the pupils’ books with the S and I so that the moderator could see it.

    Can I simply not highlight the statement when met and write down which term? For us the majority of independent writes are in spring 2 and summer 1 with the exception of 2 in autumn 2. Supported are from September to end of January. The idea of dating all the different pieces against each statement is just ludicrous and a waste of time.

    Our other suggestion was to pick 5 pupils in the class whose work we’d heavily scrutinise and then decide where the others fall. It would be with the understanding that the statements are absolutes and not a best fit approach.
    Any thoughts?

    • Michael Tidd 3 February 2016 at 9:49 pm Reply

      Hi Hajra,
      My thoughts are as follows:
      *There should be no need to “collect” evidence for Writing. You already have the evidence in your exercise books, neat writing, and all sorts of other places. A moderator should have access to all of it really. The only reason we put the table in is as a signpost for moderators to avoid the possibility of them missing evidence that we think is there (after all, Y6 children write a lot!)
      *There is no need for you to highlight anything if you don’t wish. If you feel confident that the evidence is there, then you should be able to hand that over to a moderator to look at. It’s not your job to annotate or anything like that.
      *You don’t have to add any dates or signposts, or say whether it was independent as such, but the brief guidance we have been offered so far does say that it should be clear which pieces are independent. I’ve no idea how they imagine we should make that clear, but perhaps the exemplification this week will guide us.
      *I’d advise against picking 5 pupils; you have to be sure that you have evidence for each statement. With picking like that, there’s a risk that the moderator would pick 5 of your unselected pupils, and then find tiny gaps in their evidence that show they’re not meeting the standard. That could be more problematic in the long run.

      Hope that helps. And I hope that the exemplification arrives soon and helps to clear some of these problem up for us!

      • Tom Bishop 4 February 2016 at 11:06 am Reply

        We have also selected 5 pupils from across each class and already gathered a range of photographic evidence dated with post-its stuck to the work showing how we are evidencing and highlighting.

        It is used as an example of the process we have gone through for every child in the year group (3 form entry) and I think would be useful for the moderators.

        It would only be fair to say that my own experience of moderation has been very positive as a supportive and constructive process. The general feeling about it that I’ve had shared with me by colleagues from other schools is also positive. I would not expect the moderators to be looking for tiny gaps in evidence, and anyway they could do that regardless of us demonstrating the process we have gone through with them for a sample of pupils.

        I trust our local moderators to be fair; it is rare for me to hear of negative experiences that suggests I should think otherwise.

        I recognise that the changing in order of events puts a different slant on the process.

        • Michael Tidd 4 February 2016 at 12:35 pm

          I agree entirely that in the past the process has been very productive and a good professional dialogue. However, my concern is not that moderators will suddenly become draconian, but that the rules have.
          The removal of ‘best-fit’ means that teachers need to be satisfied that they have the necessary evidence, and moderators do too.

    • hajra 5 February 2016 at 9:27 pm Reply

      Thank you for the clarity. It’ll save alot of time!

      • hajra 5 February 2016 at 9:33 pm Reply

        Also we use small sticky labels at the end of an independent write incase that helps anyone. It simply says Independent Writing and the term it was written in. All the rest have some level of support.
        One more point of discussion. What do you mean when you say ‘independent’? There seems to range of definitions.
        Thank you.

        • Michael Tidd 5 February 2016 at 9:43 pm

          Interesting question. I’ve never gone in for the ‘cold write’ thing; it’s just not realistic. As it is, there were some fascinating posts from @hertsassessment on Twitter that are worth looking at:
          They seemed to indicate that the STA agrees that “independence” is more about independent application than being left to do cold tasks.

        • hajra 5 February 2016 at 9:50 pm

          Thank you I’ll have a read.

  11. Kate Cameron 7 February 2016 at 8:28 pm Reply

    Did anyone else spot that one of the maths exemplifications contains a piece of joint work…??? Does this mean its acceptable to submit as evidence something they’ve done in a pair? Surely not, but the evidence is there….In which case, I might be suggesting that our Year 6 redesign their seating arrangements, ha ha!!

    • Michael Tidd 7 February 2016 at 8:29 pm Reply

      I hadn’t appreciated that. Mind you… I haven’t paid much attention since maths will be judged on the test alone.
      Writing on the other hand…

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