Got the T-shirt (a moderate tale)

Given that teacher assessment is a nonsense which lacks reliability, and that moderation can not really reduce this, nor ensure that gradings are comparable, our moderation experience was about as good as it could be! It was thus:

Each of we two Y6 teachers submitted all our assessments and three children in each category (more ridiculous, inconsistent and confusable codes, here), of which one each was selected, plus another two from each category at random. So, nine children from each class. We were told who these nine were a day in advance. Had we wanted to titivate, we could have, but with our ‘system’ it really wasn’t necessary.

The ‘system’ was basically making use of the interim statements and assigning each one of them a number. Marking since April has involved annotating each piece of work with these numbers, to indicate each criterion. It was far less onerous than it sounds and was surprisingly effective in terms of formative assessment. I shall probably use something similar in the future, even if not required to present evidence.

The moderator arrived this morning and gave us time to settle our classes whilst she generally perused our books. I had been skeptical. I posted on twitter that though a moderator would have authority, I doubted they’d have more expertise. I was concerned about arguing points of grammar and assessment. I was wrong. We could hardly have asked for a better moderator. She knew her stuff. She was a y6 teacher. We had a common understanding of the grammar and the statements. She’d made it her business to sample moderation events as widely as possible and therefore had had the opportunity to see many examples of written work from a wide range of schools. She appreciated our system and the fact that all our written work from April had been done in one book.

Discussions and examination of the evidence, by and large led to an agreed assessment. One was raised from working towards; one, who I had tentatively put forward as ‘greater depth’, but only recently, was agreed to have not quite made it. The other 16 went through as previously assessed, along with all the others in the year group. Overall my colleague and I were deemed to know what we were doing! We ought to, but a) the county moderation experience unsettled us and fed my ever-ready cynicism about the whole business and b) I know that it’s easy to be lulled into a false belief that what we’ve agreed is actually the ‘truth’ about where these pupils are at. All we can say is that we roughly agreed between the three of us. The limited nature of the current criteria makes this an easier task than the old levels, (we still referred to the old levels!) but the error in the system makes it unusable for accountability or for future tracking. I’m most interested to see what the results of the writing assessment are this year – particularly in moderated v non-moderated schools. Whatever it is, it won’t be a reliable assessment but, unfortunately it will still be used (for good or ill) by senior leaders, and other agencies, to make judgements about teaching.

Nevertheless, I’m quite relieved the experience was a positive one and gratified and somewhat surprised to have spent the day with someone with sense and expertise. How was it for you?





Oh look, I’m right again

Being in any profession for more than 20 years (yes, me) means you may have had to watch the same old stuff go round again and again. Sometimes something is brought back having been thrown out because it didn’t work the first time and nobody else is old enough to know that it isn’t new and wonderful. Sometimes it’s something that was abandoned against your best protestations, only to make a reappearance some years later as a good idea. Often, we just throw away good old stuff and replace it with tat – but that’s a different story!

I’m currently feeling the need to vent spleen over the reintroduction of a weekly ‘singing assembly’. That’s all very well – perhaps we could cope with the sudden change in our timetables (having already spent many hours trying to get everything to fit), since it could be generally argued that collective singing in a primary school is a ‘good thing’. However, we used to have a singing assembly. I ran it. I didn’t want to – particularly as it always needed to have overtones of collective worship – but I put that aside and concentrated on getting the best out of the whole of Key Stage 2 and a bunch of disparate, pupil volunteer musicians. We did pretty well – there were 3-part harmonies and instrumental accompaniments. I mainly plundered the gospel repertoire for its sheer musicality. Then one day, without explanation, I was unceremoniously ‘thanked’ for everything I’d done and informed that it was not going to happen any longer. I did object, in spite of not really wanting to have to run the damned thing in the first place, on the grounds of there being no more collective singing, and possibly very little singing at all. Now, some 5 years later, we’re told that the lack of collective singing is an issue and so we’ll be having singing assemblies once a week, led by a paid outsider. It’s unlikely that anyone will have the courtesy to say I was right.

Yes this is rather petulant but only one example in many of just how little value is placed on experience and expertise. It’s all about rank – as it has ever been – and in education those are very different things.