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Just over a year ago, I took a bold step into the world of twitter and blogging.  Whilst most of my forays have just been the random musings that the strap line of my blog promises, one or two have shown me the power that social media can have.
Almost a year ago to the day, I posted a pleading blog as an assessment leader in crisis, floundering in the newly “created” world of assessment without levels.  From that blog, I received words of wisdom from many good people.  Crucially though,  Michael Tidd put me in touch with some wonderful people at the White Horse Federation in Swindon, who helped me on my way with my assessment journey. 
Fast forward a short while, and a trial system was in place, and then rolled out across the whole school in September.  There have been times when I have felt quite smug about the fact that, as a school, we more or less know what we are doing.  However,  for the most part, I have still had one or two niggling doubts about what we do, especially when we have made changes mid-year or even mid-term.
No secret was ever made of the fact that this system was developing as we went along – staff, children, parents and governors have all been kept informed of what we are doing.  However, I have always known that the system wasn’t completely perfect for us.  Not least because it was designed by the White Horse Federation to suit their needs, and we were/are using it alongside a few minimal functions of Target Tracker (purely for the purposes of looking at groups of children, as it links to SIMS).  I am eternally grateful for the support the WHF have given, and continue to give, and I know that they too have made changes to the system as time has gone on.
Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to attend the Assessment Without Levels conference at Cheltenham Racecourse, where some wonderful speakers provided me with a huge amount of food for thought.   Not least Jamie Pembroke and Michael Tidd (who, I am not ashamed to admit, I was very excited to finally get to meet at last!), whose key message was: do less, but better.  Jamie has always been a firm (and vocal!) believer in not using assessment systems if they don’t work for you.  He is, of course, completely right, but the only way to find something that completely fits your assessment system is to build it yourself. I don’t want to spend more money and time learning about a different system that still doesn’t quite fit our needs.  But sadly, my web/app designing skills don’t quite meet the desired level (I was excited a couple of years ago when I managed to get an Excel spreadsheet to change colour depending on the numbers put in!). If I’m honest,  our needs for a tracking system are going to change anyway.  I’m not completely sure how yet; when listening to Michael and Mary Myatt yesterday, I knew exactly what we were going to do and how.   24 hours on, and that clarity has faded a little, but I still have ideas.
As a school, we assess too much.  I knew that from the outset, but I thought it better to do too much and cut back, rather than not enough and add to people’s workload later on.  I know we aren’t in the business of popularity contests,  but taking away work rather than adding more is always going to score brownie points! Staff have got to grips with the way we are planning and assessing, and they are doing it well.  The children know what they can do and where they need to go next.  The parents  (hopefully) know where to look to find out how their child is getting on and what they can do to help.  I’m not going to change any of that, just streamline the record keeping somehow.  
I’m not back to square one, nowhere near it, because this year, I have a very sound starting point, thanks to the WHF.  And, a year on, I have the confidence in my ability to develop this, something that I lacked massively last year.  I also have the confidence to talk to Ofsted about what we do: my favourite phrase of yesterday was “I’m sorry, we don’t do that here.  What would you like to know?”  I can’t wait to try that one out when our inevitable HMI visitor comes knocking on the door.
So, for the time being, we carry on doing the bloody good job that were are doing  already . But conversations will be had, plans will be made, and hopefully,  in the not too distant future, we will be doing less,  and even better.

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2 thoughts on “Do less, but better

  1. And that is the perfect way to do it!
    Let it be guided by your school’s principles, your school’s needs… and the pace that suits your thinking. So glad to have been of use in that journey – and all the best for the next stages of it!

    Like

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