There are so many challenges facing teachers at the moment; the pressure is unreal. New curriculum, new assessment systems, ever increasing demands on the attainment and progress of children, huge workloads. I can deal with all of that: it’s my job.
But what I can’t deal with is the fact that schools can no longer communicate with each other effectively: we aren’t all talking the same language any more. Previously, if a child came to us mid-year, they would bring with them a list of levels for their reading, writing and maths. We may not have entirely agreed with the judgements, but at least, in theory, we would know what they meant when they said a child was a 2b. We would know where we should expect them to be when they left in year 6. Now, we can no longer be sure what an assessment means: are they below? Beginning? Working within? Secure? Above? Working at Mastery level – and what is that exactly? That’s a whole other topic for discussion. Earlier in the year, I contacted a few local schools who were also using Target Tracker as a tracking system to form a Support Network. At our first meeting, it was apparent that we were all at very different stages in our assessment journey. We shared our progress, agreed a few actions and went on our way. Well, we got back together today to see how we were getting on, and it seems we are all making progress. Is it good progress? Well, when we ascertain what that actually is, I’ll let you know. We all have systems in place, albeit at varying degrees of completion. We have all taken similar approaches, yet there are key differences. We haven’t agreed a common expectation of attainment at key points in the year, and we aren’t all assessing against the same objectives. We are going to meet together next time to see if we agree on what a “secure” mathematician looks like, but I have a feeling we won’t succeed. Each of us will be able to justify our own judgements, but they won’t compare across schools. And I am pretty sure that none of us will be prepared to change our systems to tie in with someone else’s: after all, we have each put an enormous amount of work into developing them.
If we, as a group of 5 fairly local schools, have no consistency between us, what hope is there of there being any similarities between schools across the country? One member of the group reported that her junior school works in a different way to the feeder infant school. It’s absolute craziness: any new children coming in to a school will have to be baseline assessed to provide a starting point for the school’s assessment system. I am all for freedom and independence for schools and teachers: we have been constrained for so long that we have lost all sense of professional judgement. We should have the opportunity to make judgements for ourselves. But we need to be talking the same language. We can moderate until we are blue in the face across our schools; we can have (and should have) the greatest confidence in our own systems. We should have parents who have confidence in our systems. But what good is a system if it means nothing to anyone else? I know that they are primarily for our use, but my goodness, the secondary schools are going to have one heck of a challenge next year. I can’t help but feel that, in the very near future, someone somewhere is going to pull the rug out from under our feet and tell us to start all over again. And somewhere, buried way down inside me, there’s a tiny, tiny little part that can’t help but feel that might not be a bad thing. Common expectations and a common language. At least then, the schools can start to communicate properly again.