“You love assessment, don’t you?”
That was what a colleague said to me today.
Actually, no, I’m not sure that I do love it. I love a challenge, and being Assessment Leader has certainly proved to be that, but I would not go as far as to say I love assessment. It has taken over my professional life, and seems to have become a bit of a work-time obsession, but I don’t love it. A huge amount of my conversations with colleagues seem to be about assessment, or about Target Tracker, or giving advice about Band Progression Sheets. To be honest, this time last year, I knew very little about assessment. I certainly wouldn’t consider myself to be an expert, but, given that I am the Assessment Leader, it is probably a good thing that I know more than most at school. I know quite a lot about this whole business, but mainly because I spend my evenings trawling Twitter and reading tweets and blogs about it all and conversing with those who know more than me. Maybe one day, someone might converse with me because I know more than them – stranger things have happened! The thing is, I’m not sure that any of us can really claim to be experts on assessment: we are all crawling our way through this muddy quagmire that is Life After Levels, it’s just that some crawl faster than others, maybe even run. I opted for the slow and steady approach, feeling my way carefully and testing the waters as I went. I wanted to be sure that what I was doing worked before I introduced it to the rest of the school. I wanted to be confident in my system, to have tried and tested it and found and overcome problems, rather than expecting others to bumble along with me. There was a time a few months ago when I could have cried over the lack of answers I had (read my plea for help here!), but now, I have a lot of them. Not all; we’re still finding things out as we go along. We haven’t yet completed a whole year of assessments, so we still have some hurdles to overcome, but we’re getting there.
If you’d have asked me a few months ago if I wanted to pack it all in and go back to the old way, I’d have leapt at the chance. Now, when I heard the rumour on Twitter that levels were coming back, I felt quite emotional about it all. So much hard work by so many people. Changes in procedures, in attitudes and in mindset. I sat down with my teaching partner last week to go through our assessments and make some judgements. She was hesitant – she couldn’t evidence everything she wanted to highlight. But it was fantastic to hear the way she talked change: she soon began to talk of what she had seen the children do, what she knew about them, and to value her own professional judgement. It will be amazing, when we all begin using this method in September, to see staff putting more value on their own opinions. For them to realise they really do know their children, and they really can give a professional judgement. We don’t need a test to tell us about our children: we know so much already. Dame Alison Peacock’s tweet earlier today, confirming that levels won’t be returning, was a welcome read for me.
Do you know, something strange does seem to have happened this year. Maybe I don’t love assessment. But, after reading this back, it seems I’m pretty passionate about it.