Tuesday, 5 January 2010

My journey through the open fields of KS2 Assessment

Many things drew me away from the secondary classroom and into the primary one. One of them was assessment. A necessary evil when I first started teaching 15 years ago, it became an all-encompassing sine qua non of my daily working life. Yes, I saw the point of it, and yes, I think AfL is a good thing. But sub levels ? Numbers on a database now appear to count for more than a professional's gut feeling. The grass was definitely greener on the PMFL side. It's not yet formally assessed and Ofsted won't formally inspect it until 2014.

So in September I started primary language teaching. Just teaching. Not assessing. Or not assessing formally and endlessly in any case. It was very refreshing, and I felt like a proper teacher again.

However, after three quarters of a term of this golden, halcyon phase, I realised that the time had come to look into the A-word and what I should be doing in the primary languages context. Partly because my line manager at the LA wants me to investigate it, partly because the headteacher at my school wants the children to have a record of what they have done in Spanish and how well they have done it, and partly because of my own professional curiosity and conscience.

I spent some considerable time reading up on the subject. If you need to do the same, I'd recommend that you look here:

By the time I had read my way through these and more, and made copious notes, I had a fair idea of what I wanted to do, not only for the Y6s for the purposes of their transition, but also for the rest of KS2.

Here are some of my conclusions:

Assessment in KS2 needs to be manageable (not too much of it) and above all useful. It needs to be useful to the pupil, to the teacher, to the parents and to the teachers at the secondary schools.

Some people favour using the Languages Ladder levels, but these mean nothing to me or to the majority of practitioners in my LA, so I prefer KS2 Framework objectives integrated with National Curriculum levels. This will be more meaningful to the children, as they are familiar with levels through their other curriculum subjects, and also to the secondary teachers who will one day inherit my pupils.

I very much like the European Junior Language Portfolio, especially its layout and "can do" statements. But I think that it doesn't quite go deeply enough into the subject for me.

In the last week of last term I took the bull by the horns and presented my KS2s with their first assessment record sheet:

We had learnt numbers in batches throughout the term, and this was an attempt to bring all that knowledge together. The top half of the sheet deals with the knowledge gained, and the bottom half of the sheet looks at the skills that pupils have gained by learning these numbers:

Preparing this second half of the sheet was a real eye-opener for me. I had no idea that we had covered so much in just one term. We had some interesting discussions in the classroom about each box, what it meant, and what we had done to address each one. It gave me a good idea of what had gone down well (playing "¿Más o menos?" and "Which card?") and what we need to do more (Practising new words with a friend).

I have used the traffic-light system of recording for two reasons: (1) my pupils are already familiar with it from elsewhere in their curriulum and (2) there's no writing for Y3 and Y4 to worry about, so they can just concentrate on thinking hard about what colour light they will give themselves.

Tomorrow I will be starting my second term as a primary teacher, and am planning to move onward and upward with the assessment, fine-tuning the process as I go. I am still not happy, for example, with the layout (there is no space left for Intercultural Understanding !) The assessment that I have already done has focussed my planning, and I have incorporated some of the objectives into my lesson plans. I fear that for some pupils there is still some way to go with "I can listen carefully and give a clear, sensible answer"........

So that is my journey so far. I would be very interested to hear peoples' thoughts.


  1. Hi Clare
    I've just found your blog and think it's great. In fact I sent you an email yesterday, re Reception activities, but the 'teaching grandma how to suck eggs' comment is clearly an understatement - I can see how much you've achieved already in one term.

    I love your assessment templates and have wrestled with EXACTLY the same issues as you. This year I've been assessing (occasionally) using my own interpretation of Language Ladder, and have agreed a target with my HT of getting Y6 onto level 2 by July. (I'm in my second year of primary MFL). It's still not great, but purely self-assessment doesn't quite fit the bill either for me(I do that using European Langs Portfolio). To be honest I've collected a huge pile of resources, ideas, info etc. on assessing, always having in mind that Ofsted could come and ask awkward questions at any time, and not entirely sure how to address it best!

    Some great ideas on your blog - I think I'll be doing calligrams very soon too.

    Many thanks for sharing, it's much appreciated.
    Caroline Smith

  2. Thank you so much for your comment, Caroline.

    Makes it all worth while. :)