Some clarity on KS2 Writing moderation … but not a lot

Not for the first time, the Department has decided to issue some clarification about the writing assessment framework at Key Stage 2 (and its moderation!). For some inexplicable reason, rather than sharing this clarity in writing, it has been produced as a slowly-worded video – as if it were us that were stupid!

Here’s my take on what it says:

Some Clarity – especially on punctuation

  • For Greater Depth, the long-winded bullet point about shifts in formality has to be seen in several pieces of work, with more than one shift within each of those pieces.
  • For Expected Standard, it is acceptable to have evidence of colons and semi-colons for introducing, and within, lists (i.e. not between clauses)
  • For Expected Standard, any of either brackets, dashes or commas are acceptable to show parenthesis. There is no need to show all three.
  • Bullet points are punctuation, but the DfE is pretending they’re not, so there’s no need to have evidence of them as part of the “full range” of punctuation needed for Greater Depth.
  • Three full stops to mark ellipsis are also punctuation, but again, the DfE has managed to redefine ellipsis in such a way that they’re not… so again, not needed for Greater Depth.

A bit of guidance on spelling

This was quite clear: if a teacher indicates that a spelling needs correcting by writing a comment in the margin on the relevant line, then the correction of that spelling cannot be counted as independent. If the comment to correct spellings comes at the end of a paragraph or whole piece, without specifying what to correct, then it can still count as independent.

No clarity whatsoever on ‘independence’

Believe me, I’ve re-watched this several times – and not all of them at double-speed – and I’m still bemused that they think this clarifies things. The whole debacle is still reliant on phrases like “over-scaffolding” and “over-detailed”. Of course, if things are over-detailed then there is too much detail. What isn’t any clearer is how much detail is too much detail. The video tells us that:

“success criteria would be considered over-detailed where the advice given directly shapes what pupils write by directing them to include specific words or phrases”

So we know specifying particular words is too much, but is it okay to use success criteria which include:

  • Use a varied range of sentence structures

Is it too specific to include this?

  • Use a varied range of sentence openers

What about…?

  • Use adverbs as sentence openers

There’s a wide gulf between the three examples above. Which of these is acceptable? Because if it’s the latter, then schools relying on the first will find themselves under-valuing work – and vice versa, of course. That’s before you even begin to consider the impossibility of telling what success criteria and other supporting examples are available in classrooms at the time of writing.

The video tries to help by adding:

“success criteria must not specifically direct pupils as to what to include or where to include something in their writing”

But all of those examples are telling children what to include – that’s the whole point of success criteria.

If I’ve understood correctly, I think all three of those examples are acceptable. But it shouldn’t matter what I think: if the whole system depends on what each of us thinks the guidance means, then the consistency necessary for fair and useful assessment is non-existent.

The whole issue remains a farce. Doubtless this year Writing results will rise, probably pushing them even higher above the results for the externally tested subjects. Doubtless results will vary widely across the country, with little or no relationship to success in the tested subjects. And doubtless moderation will be a haphazard affair with professionals doing their best to work within an incomprehensible framework.

And to think that people will lose their jobs over data that results from this nonsense!

The full video in all its 11-minute glory can be found at:



21 thoughts on “Some clarity on KS2 Writing moderation … but not a lot

  1. qmhealthylives 10 March 2017 at 8:36 pm Reply

    Thank you for this. Really sucking the life out of a process that should be magical. I have amazing Year 6 teachers at my school but I am not sure whether I could ever teach writing forca sustained period of time anymore and I have really enjoyed developing writing in Year 6 in my varied career. Hats off to all Year 6 teachers.

  2. Jacky 10 March 2017 at 8:41 pm Reply

    Here! Here!
    I still don’t know whether levels of formality can be shown through dialogue or having two narrators. Nor do I think the writing in greater depth on ballet and the letter use varied levels of formality appropriately!

    • Michael Tidd 10 March 2017 at 9:32 pm Reply

      Foolish to think that we could expect any clarity from these clarifications, perhaps.

  3. Red 10 March 2017 at 9:15 pm Reply


    • Michael Tidd 10 March 2017 at 9:32 pm Reply

      Quick, stick it on your working wall: it’ll probably be in this year’s spelling test now!

  4. daveo81 10 March 2017 at 10:03 pm Reply

    I’m finding it increasingly difficult to leave meaningful comments with my class about their writing due to second guessing what support is over supportive. I’m shifting to purpose and effect and trying to re-develop the English long term plan to focus on a KS1 & 2 version of the writing triplets that way I can say “This sentence isn’t clear, how do you think you can improve it?” Rather than “Go back and put in some comma’s. Oh crap no, don’t respond to that comment because I said the word ‘comma and that’s over aiding you!” However, I know it’s going to cause more problems as I try and move teachers away from the security of a genre focused curriculum. I’ll have to feedback this latest guidance to my team, who are already struggling to come up with learning objectives that fit the new curriculum, and now I’ll have to explain that their success criteria are probably over aiding the pupils. Isn’t supposed to be the DFE’s job to make our lives easier?

  5. A Very Baffled Teacher 10 March 2017 at 10:35 pm Reply

    Anyone else notice the part about bullet point lists, or am I going crazy? She clearly says that they should either all end in full stops, or not, nothing mixed. However, the very next thing she shows is the interim framework, or a bullet point list, that clearly has a full stop for the last item and not the one before! #TheyDon’tKnowWhatTheyAreDoing
    In other news, would she be reading that auto cue fast enough to achieve the expected standard at KS1? I fear not.

    • ks1blog 11 March 2017 at 9:24 am Reply

      Great comment 😉

    • Fiona Whittaker 12 March 2017 at 5:32 pm Reply


  6. Jackie 11 March 2017 at 5:35 am Reply

    just been on a Moderators information update and the Success Criteria point we were shown is- to use your example
    *Use a varied range of sentence openers this is fine as it stands but not if you have a SC like this (WITH EXAMPLES NEXT TO EACH POINT)
    Use a varied range of sentence openers- although it was hot, quickly they scarpered. frantically awaiting the… as soon as it started…..
    We were also told that – the shifts in formality must be seen at least 2-3 times to give Greater Depth otherwise its not to be counted as GD! Hope this helps

    • ks1blog 11 March 2017 at 9:26 am Reply

      Thank you for this clarification. Just hope all LAs send out the same message to all moderators and as part of their CPD training.

  7. Pat Stone 11 March 2017 at 12:32 pm Reply

    If you are in Leicester you can pay £50 or £70 and go to moderation training led by…
    the woman in the video who presumably was in charge of the clarifications. I’m not sure I can handle the cognitive dissonance about fairness, equality, moderation even, when something imposed on every school can be gamed according to postcode and ability to spend the money.
    For what it’s worth I would take everything written or said about this issue literally. I would not seek to interpret what is meant by any of it. I would read and listen and do exactly what it all says. Then who could argue?
    But here she is, named as trainer on the right hand side. She does a training day for KS1 as well. I’m sure she must be very good and helpful and not meaning at all to set up an iniquitous system. She does sound a bit peeved in the video, though. “Oh, for goodness’ sake, don’t these people understand anything!”

    I’m off to look at Leicester’s 2016 SATs results.

    • Pat Stone 11 March 2017 at 12:48 pm Reply

      I meant to add – the more we ask for clarification, the more we invite those who jerk us around to jerk us around a bit more.

  8. stjamesceacademy 11 March 2017 at 4:19 pm Reply

    I’m also struggling to get an answer from the DfE regarding how they are going to measure progress in Writing from KS1 to KS2. It’s now been three phone calls, a redirect to post a question via email to their help desk and nearly three weeks waiting for my subsequent emailed answer. The best I got was the following… ‘The query is fairly complex and may have needed to go through several different teams to ensure you are given the correct response.’

    What?? Several different teams of the DfE just to find out how to measure progress in the system that they devised and imposed on us?

  9. Fiona Whittaker 12 March 2017 at 5:31 pm Reply

    Have you tried calling the helpline to see if they can clarify the misconceptions arising from this clarification?

  10. […] the pupil can statements in the interim assessment frameworks), or read a summary on a blog such as this, but I’ve put together a ppt to compile all of the info for my school moderation meeting, so […]

  11. […] Not for the first time, the Department has decided to issue some clarification about the writing assessment framework at Key Stage 2 (and its moderation!). For some inexplicable reason, rather than sharing this clarity in writing, it has been produced as a slowly-worded video – as if it were us that were stupid! Here’s my … […]

  12. Sue Ashby 16 March 2017 at 9:04 am Reply

    Hi, I have a question about children who are working below the level of the tests at KS2 for RWM. If they do not sit the test are they included in your average scaled score? If so what scaled score are they allotted if they don’t take the test? Does it count as zero? Are they included in the average?

  13. Sue Ashby 24 March 2017 at 1:52 pm Reply

    Thank you for the link 🙂

  14. […] What’s more interesting, as it has greater implications in terms of the gauging of progress is that writing is not included in this measure. At KS4, writing constitutes 50% of a student’s overall marks and therefore their grade. Writing is assessed at KS2, but this is carried out through teacher assessment. Michael Tidd (@michaelt1979) has written interestingly on this – in particular, the issues around moderation and defining levels of independence. […]

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