Just Plain Wrong.

When I posted this,

I was joking really. But in my absence, a video and bizarre supporting webpage emerged from the DfE that have further raised the profession’s collective hackles. So here are my thoughts. They can be best summarised as follows: mostly the DfE is right, but where they are wrong, they’re just plain wrong.

Five things you need to know

  1. Setting a higher bar
    The government has the right to set different standards and a curriculum, and to set new tests. Although they did not quite meet their own deadline of providing information a year in advance with the new-style tests, they weren’t far off. This part of the department doesn’t seem too chaotic to me, which is a marvel considering what ministers have thrown at it.
  2. Preparing for the new tests
    I’ve said before that I agree that the thresholds can’t be set until after the tests have been taken. And the fact that this is the case means that they can be reasonably set at around the old 4b standard, which the government has given its evidence to support. (It happens not to be evidence I agree with, but that’s another matter). I think that actually this will make the tests acceptable. That some people disagree with the content of the tests doesn’t mean they’re chaotic.
  3. Getting it right
    Ironically, this is where it starts going all wrong. They talk about the frameworks being published later than they’d like. In fact, they were published back in Autumn 2014, which was a reasonable time. Except that they were so awful that they had to be scrapped and started from scratch: the delay was caused by the DfE. Then the exemplification which is so vital to interpretation of such discredited approaches to assessment was so late that some of it still hasn’t arrived. If there is any disingenuity here, then it is undoubtedly on the part of the person writing this statement. If there were anything but chaos about this, then we would at least by now have some vague idea of what Teacher Assessment will look like in 2017, yet there is none. The fact that we are having these battles just 10 weeks before the tests is shocking.
    I’d note, too, that we were promised the exemplification by the end of January (which itself was far too late). For the DfE to claim some magnanimity in moving the KS1 submission date back by 2 weeks when the materials are already over 3 weeks late after their already late deadline is far worse than ingenuous. It once again shows their complete disregard for the profession, and is unacceptable.
  4. Teachers won’t have to fill out 6,120 check boxes
    The exemplification guidance is quite clear that teachers must “check and record whether there is sufficient evidence for each of the statements within the standard”. That could not be more plain. For the secretary of state to claim that this is scaremongering is ignorant. If the document is erroneous in stating that, then she ought to apologise for the confusion caused by her department, not blame others (as @theprimaryhead points out in his blog)
    As it is, I still fail to see how this can be got around if teachers are to ensure that moderators cannot find any gaps in evidence and thus potentially report teachers or schools for maladministration. Again, if this is not the intention, then the secretary of state ought to apologise for the confusion caused, not blame the unions.
    Currently, as a teacher of Year 6 pupils, I can see no other way of preparing myself for the high-stakes moderation process, than to collect an evidence trail of ticks to assure the moderator (and myself). And as a deputy headteacher, I can see no other way of preparing my school for the high-stakes league tables and floor standards, than to corrupt good teaching to try to tick those boxes.
    Lindsey Thomas’s excellent blog addresses this point in greater detail well.
  5. A new floor standard which sets high expectations for all
    Firstly, it annoys me that the department continues to claim that the new standards challenge schools with able intakes. The attainment element of the standard removes challenge for the schools with the easiest catchments.
    That aside, I’ve said before that it’s reasonable to set the expected progress measure after the results are in. The problems come from the ridiculous way in which Writing attainment will be measured. The secretary of state seems to missed the point made by the unions that the new expected standards in Writing for both Key Stages are far in excess of those proposed by the DfE. The secretary of state refers to children “mastering the basics”; I’ve yet to find anyone who thinks that use of semi-colons counts as a ‘basic’.
    The original argument was that pupils who achieve 4b have a far greater chance of achieving 5 good GCSE grades, and so the new threshold should be set at this level. The interim frameworks and exemplification documents clearly show that the DfE has far overshot the bar with its new materials. Setting such a high bar will lead to huge proportions of children being deemed to have failed to meet the standard, and of schools being described as failing. I genuinely believe that this is more a cock-up than a conspiracy, but it’s one that the department seems determined to deny. It is this approach which leads to claims of chaos in the department, and to the claim that the DfE don’t know what they’re doing.


The irony in the repeated use of the word “disingenuous” won’t have been lost on teachers.

12 thoughts on “Just Plain Wrong.

  1. Vicky 21 February 2016 at 8:12 pm Reply

    Welcome back Michael!! I was looking forward to your first post back after the recent announcements. Congratulations on your wedding.

  2. julietgreen 21 February 2016 at 8:27 pm Reply

    I echo Vicky’s post.

  3. BekBlayton 21 February 2016 at 9:02 pm Reply


  4. Campbell Forbes 21 February 2016 at 9:11 pm Reply

    The thing that annoys me is Nick Gibb`s comment, in his letter to NAHT, highlighting that it was real Y6 children who wrote the materials. Were they already strong writers? And as you already eluded to; how many drafts did they have and success criteria?


    • mrmortonblog 22 February 2016 at 8:20 pm Reply

      Even more amazing to think that these ‘real’ Y6 children managed to achieve all this writing across all the genres in the time from Sept to Dec – because presumably the DfE had to have been working on the exemplification since at least January.

      You can see from ‘Frankie’ (above expected level) that she wrote a letter about a attending a Book Award ceremony. I decided to do some digging because the Book Award event actually exists and Frankie even kindly mentions one of the short-listed books, so it is not difficult to work out when the ceremony took place. Frankie also has written the date of December (you would expect nothing less of an exceeding writer). It appears the ceremony took place in Feb 2015, so the letter would have to have been written in December 2014. Now either Frankie wrote this whilst she was in Year 5 and she is now a current Y6, in which case I apologise to Mr Gibb and accept his letter in good faith or this is a clear case of a lie and I then find it difficult to believe that any of the writing on the exemplification work is genuinely the work of a child.

      Mr Gibb said: (the writing material was) ‘provided in draft by teacher panels from a selection of schools.’ There must be someone out there who works at one of these schools who could tell us the truth behind how this writing came to be, because it all smells very fishy to me at he minute.

  5. cazzypot2013 21 February 2016 at 9:18 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  6. nancy 21 February 2016 at 9:27 pm Reply

    Indeed. I often find myself wondering what everyone means by ‘basics’.

  7. julietgreen 22 February 2016 at 7:43 pm Reply

    I wonder what remains to be taught after these ‘basics’.

  8. […] Source: Just Plain Wrong. […]

  9. just an average student 23 February 2016 at 3:13 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Just a student teacher.

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