Every year is tough for primary school children. But I think this year has been particularly tough. Unbeknownst to them, children have been having to deal with a new curriculum, new topics, teachers teaching subjects they have never taught before and having to find ways to assess unlike they ever have before. The children probably haven’t noticed much difference, but the teachers have.
I have been so proud of all that we have achieved this year. None of the teachers in the year group had taught in year 4 for a very long time. Neither of the teachers who taught in year 4 previously were in the school, and, being the Assessment Leader, we were the guinea pigs for developing and trying out a new system of assessing. All in all, I think we have done an amazing job. The children have made an enormous amount of progress – you can see it in their books, and thankfully, our assessment recording sheets show this too! But, as Michael Tidd discussed so eloquently last week, some of the children have not reached Age Related Expectation. As a teacher and as an Assessment Leader, I understand why, and I am not concerned about it. The children are playing a game of catch up. Being year 4, there are 3 years of gaps to try and plug in areas which haven’t been taught before. 3 years of spelling, punctuation and grammar changes to catch up on. The children have achieved a huge amount. They can do so much now that they couldn’t do at the start of the year, they understand so much that they didn’t know in September. I’ve seen many lightbulb moments this year. The children can tell me what they have learned and, just as importantly, what they still need to get better at. Their end of year reports will be full of positive comments and celebrations, yet I know their parents will concentrate on the numbers on the back of the report rather than all of the positive comments. They will want to know why they haven’t reached Age Related Expectation rather than realising all of the new skills they have acquired. I read a blog post last week by TheQuirkyTeacher who said that the comments on a report were irrelevant, and that parents only wanted to know the levels/judgements about their children. If that is true, then there is something wrong with our school system. Surely those judgements are the least important part of the report? Like hundreds of thousands of teachers at this time of year, I will spend hours writing the reports for my children. I want their parents to know how well I know them, how much I have enjoyed being with them, and how proud I am of them. It’s not important if they are “working towards expectation” or “above expectation” – surely it’s how well they have performed against what WE think they can do that’s important? Sadly, there isn’t a number on the report to show that, but the comments that I will spend hours writing and checking WILL. Of course, we will explain all of this to the parents, and many will take this on board. But I know some won’t. And of course, I will happily sit down with them and explain again how far their child has come and what the next steps are for them. It would be so lovely, though, if the parents would sit down with their child and READ what I write to them. Every child will have so much to celebrate, and although I tell them this all of the time, they need to see it written in black and white.
Parents talk. They talk about what has happened in school and how their child is doing. They talk about the progress their child has made. They talk about their opinions of the teacher. It’s the natural thing to do – I know I talk about my child’s school and how he is getting on. Wouldn’t it be lovely if the parents were talking about the successes their child has had this year? Wouldn’t it be lovely if, when they stand on the playground reading their reports, they all shared the positive comments that we had written? Look at the judgements we have made about their children, look at the targets we have set to help their child progress, of course – they’re there to be read, but focus on the personal stuff. It tells you so much more than a number on a page can ever do.