More Teacher Assessment confusion…

I’m never happy.

Months of moaning about the delays to the delivery of exemplification for Writing Teacher Assessment, and now it arrives I’m still not happy.

But then… it is a bloody mess!

The exemplification published today demonstrates what many of us feared about the new interim teacher assessment framework: expectations have rocketed. I appreciate (probably more than most) that direct comparisons are not ideal, but certainly having been told that the new expected standard would be broadly in line with an old Level 4b, I know I feel cheated.

The discussions in this household about the “expected standard” exemplification were not about whether or not the work was in line with a 4b, but whether or not it would have achieved a Level 5. That represents, of course, an additional 2 years of learning under the old system. We’re expecting 11-year-olds to write like 13-year-olds.

In fact, the only time where 4b ever came into the conversation was in our browse through the new “Working towards” exemplification. It seems that a child who used to meet the expected standard in 2015, would now be lucky to reach ‘working towards’ even.

What this will mean for national data this year, who knows? If schools are honest, and moderation robust, could we see a new “expected standard” proportion somewhere in the mid-30% range, like we used to with Level 5s?

Among all this, though, is another confusing element. For while in the old exemplification materials for levels in years gone by we were told that “All writing is independent and is in first draft form” (my emphasis), it seems that now this message is not so clear. Informal feedback from the meetings held at STA on Thursday and Friday last week seemed to bring up some surprises about what constituted independent writing, including the scope for using dictionaries, following success criteria, and even responding to teacher feedback.

So now we have what looks like horrendously difficult expectations for a majority of pupils who have had barely two years of a new National Curriculum instead of six, and a lack of clarity, once again, about what is actually expected.

Is it really too much to ask?


For those who haven’t yet had the pleasure, the KS1 and KS2 Writing exemplification documents are available here:




23 thoughts on “More Teacher Assessment confusion…

  1. Onthemoney 8 February 2016 at 8:36 pm Reply

    I weep for the future…

  2. primaryy6teach 8 February 2016 at 8:45 pm Reply

    You have hit the nail on the head as usual Michael. We are now expecting 11 year olds to write like 13 year olds. The implications of these changes are huge and they are meant to be. The new expected standard equating to a level 5 will mean that thousands of schools will eventually fall into the ‘coasting schools’ trap (if the new bill goes through because it has not yet.).
    This will mean thousands of publicly owned primary schools falling into private hands and being forced to become academies , which the tories have publicly stated that they want to happen. In reality, this will affect the mental health of our nation’s children, teachers, TA’s and HT. It will have no effect on standards but the privatisation of our schools system will be enabled.
    Surely we have reached the point now that we MUST stand up and fight against this. This must begin with our unions standing together and fighting back. Look at the junior doctors. They should be inspiring us as a profession. Sadly, too many peple within the profession are happy to go allong with it as they see their salaries inflate to 6 figures or are too worn down and scared to fight back. Together we can stand up and fight against what is happening and the writing exemplification is merely the tip of the iceburg. Let’s reclaim our profession and the job that we love. Let’s start a movement.

    • claris2012 8 February 2016 at 11:37 pm Reply

      Too right. This has been my rant now for months. We could all see it coming a few years ago. But to be so blatant and obvious about it is unbelievable.

      You’re absolutely right; it’s time to fight back. Academisation is about privatization and getting rid of local authorities, which the giver seem to despise.

  3. Sarah 8 February 2016 at 8:48 pm Reply

    10 weeks to go and many of my pupils won’t even meet ‘working towards’ judging by the Ks1 materials! Nothing like the old 2c standards files are they!

  4. Clea 8 February 2016 at 9:04 pm Reply

    The exemplification materials and interim frameworks for KS2 refer to these documents only being used ‘to make teacher assessment judgement at the end of the key stage following the completion of the key stage 2 curriculum.” Yet there is still a further full half term of teaching and learning time for our year 6 children after the date when we are required to submit data! So now we also need to try to pack a year’s worth of Y6 curriculum into a sixth less time when we are already trying to play catch-up to close the gap between the old and new curriculum. No wonder it feels like an increasingly impossible task.

  5. Anna Clark 8 February 2016 at 9:36 pm Reply

    Having been a moderator, I am totally confused about these standards!! I used to know just by reading what a level 4, 5, 6 felt like; now it seems like I have to look for ‘modal verbs’, ‘passive form’, ‘prepositional phrases’ amongst a million other grammatical features, and ignore the content of the writing! I am convinced teachers will be forced to jump through hoops with this, forcing children to shoe-horn endless grammar checklist features so they can tick off the met standards, taking away all if the creativity, imagination and writing with effect, which is what the main emphasis of writing should be in y6. We are putting children off writing for life…

  6. Leigh Taylor 8 February 2016 at 10:02 pm Reply

    This is the crux of the matter to me:
    ‘So now we have what looks like horrendously difficult expectations for a majority of pupils who have had barely two years of a new National Curriculum instead of six….’ As adults, teaching, we have come to expect the carpetS ( intentional plural -s) being regularly pulled from beneath our feet. Is it morally right though to do the same to our nations’ children? When has this massive evolutionary leap forward in ability/ knowledge etc happened? In the 2 years we’ve all been getting to grips with ‘Assessing without levels’ ?!

    This bit: ‘ and a lack of clarity, once again, about what is actually expected.’ is just par for the course: another way to catch us all out 🙁.

  7. carolinemoore2014 8 February 2016 at 10:53 pm Reply

    I now realise, I don’t know what an exclamation is in KS1 writing. I thought Charlie had used them but not according to the grid. Not only that, I don’t know what all means either!

  8. claris2012 8 February 2016 at 11:23 pm Reply

    When I see headteachers setting targets for pupils reaching the expected standard at around 92% – because that’s the sort of percentage they’re used to achieving – I worry. I’ve set more realistic targets based on children who we would expect to have achieved a 4b. If the standard is more like we feared and is in line with these exemplifications, then we’re down to less than 40%!!
    Not had time to study these docs properly yet – that’s a weekend job, but if you’re right, we’re in deep trouble. I’m angry!

  9. teachwell 9 February 2016 at 8:34 am Reply

    “All writing has been planned and drafted over several sessions, and is
    completely independent.”

    Is that really any different to what was happening in the old writing tests? Except that it is over several sessions?

    The problem is that children being given unfamiliar tasks is unfair, especially given that this does not happen later on at GCSE’s/A-Levels due to specifications.Also by having had input from the teacher, children can write more meaningfully. However, the argument against is that it gives middle class children an even better stance

    The fact is that some schools will attempt to game the system but that is where moderation is required and I would say random checks throughout the year. The fact that it is not externally marked does concern me however, both for the sake of the teacher and also to secure an accurate judgement for the child.

    We did know the new curriculum was more demanding though so it can’t be that much of a surprise!

  10. Campbell Forbes 9 February 2016 at 10:12 am Reply

    FrankieAnn, the `ten/eleven` year old, should receive the Booker prize. If it is indeed an actual child. Who are they trying to kid?

  11. […] materials for KS1 and KS2 have finally been released.  As Michael Tidd points out in his blog, there are already questions about the extent to which the writing judged will be truly […]

  12. DaveM 9 February 2016 at 5:33 pm Reply

    In a way I felt relief reading through the KS1 writing expectation. It crystallized something which I’ve struggled to articulate for these last few years.

    I am ready to leave teaching.

    After 17 years I’ve had enough. I can’t abide what the government is forcing upon children. The fun has gone from my classroom -whole days given over to grammar and spelling and Y3/4 maths objectives. And you know what? They can’t understand it! That’s not down to my teaching necessarily, it could be that they are simply not ready to understand it.

    I’m fed up of not sleeping and feeling ill.

    So yes, it was a bit of an epiphany for me. I don’t want to walk to their drum any more. I don’t want to worry about becoming an academy. I want out.

  13. julietgreen 9 February 2016 at 6:34 pm Reply

    I echo the these sentiments. It’s a farce. I’m not sure I’m going to go along with it.

  14. carolinemoore2014 9 February 2016 at 11:09 pm Reply

    I was asked tonight at a parent meeting – “What happens if they don’t reach the expected standard? Will my child get more help? Will there be more resources to make sure they do in the future? Mmmmm……….

  15. chemistrypoet 9 February 2016 at 11:40 pm Reply

    It appears to me that the Government is in a bind. All that work which showed that levels were a nonsense probably also revealed the significant difficulty in arriving at a meaningful way of assessing the ability of students to write at the end of KS2. There appears to be no general agreement of how this assessment should be done (independent writing, independent writing but with setting up, over a few sessions, timed etc), and then the problem of how the evaluation is done without spending a fortune. I’d say that the subjective nature of all this (and high stakes) makes TA inherently unreliable, and that the other uncertainties outlined above make the whole process of dubious value. And then there is the workload of TA. But, how does the Government simply abandon the whole thing, and leave assessment of writing to a later stage?

  16. SueH 11 February 2016 at 8:58 pm Reply

    I’m absolutely amazed that year 6 children are all now supposed to be able to write at what have been level 5 in ‘old money’! If it was so easy to achieve this with 11 year olds, wouldn’t we all have been doing it for the past few years? Agree that below standard is comparable with 4b. Results will look very odd with expected standard in reading and maths being roughly the same as in previous years and writing taking a nose dive down to 30 -40%; maybe then somebody somewhere will get the message! Begs the question – what are the secondary schools going to do to move on all these children who can suddenly write like 13 year olds! The world is going mad.

  17. MrX 11 February 2016 at 9:29 pm Reply

    Totally agree with primaryy6teach. We have all had enough. “Let’s reclaim our profession and the job that we love. Let’s start a movement.” If you are in the NAHT then please play your part and sign the Assessment pledge. If you aren’t then badger anyone who is.

  18. Jane 16 February 2016 at 10:11 pm Reply

    As a primary head I can’t abide what is happening to our children and my dedicated teachers. Please can all unions work together?

  19. Confused year 6 teacher 18 February 2016 at 10:21 pm Reply

    Has any one spotted errors in the ks2 annotated writing exemplifications? Incorrect use of semicolons and a noun phrase described as adverbial, or am I going mad!

    • Michael Tidd 21 February 2016 at 8:19 pm Reply

      Do you mean in the pupils’ work, or in the annotations?

  20. […] about KS2 Writing outcomes. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that we were reaching February without any exemplification at all, so for the STA to have released its “particular weakness” scenarios as early as […]

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