A Whole-school Approach to Assessment
Assessment for Learning — AfL (Formative Assessment)
At Shaw Primary School, we use formative assessment on a daily basis to inform and direct our teaching. We define formative assessment as any assessment or feedback that celebrates children’s successes and directs them to the next steps in their learning. The school is at the forefront of thinking in this area, having worked with Bath Spa University to develop a whole school AfL tracking pyramid to monitor and improve teacher’s skills in this vital area.
Informed and targeted planning is central to good AfL. We have therefore made the decision to link our planning and the tracking of pupil progress together in one place, using a system called Pupil Asset. This system uses key performance indicators (KPIs) for literacy and maths which break down the overall demands of the curriculum into much smaller objectives. Teachers record these small steps in the system on a regular basis. This gives a very clear picture, for each individual child, of what they have learned, in what depth, and what their next steps in learning may be. This then feeds into the next element of assessment — summative assessment.
Summative Assessment (Internal Tracking, Tests, and Checks)
Summative assessment is concerned with marks, grades, percentages, and how much of the curriculum an individual child has learned. On a daily basis, this may be marks on a spelling or maths test or the level in a reading scheme. Within Pupil Asset, it is a statement of how much of the curriculum for that year group they have covered and in what depth.
Classroom Monitor allows us to check the progress of each child and make a professional judgment on whether they are on track to meet the end-of-year expectations for that year group. It also enables us to compare the attainment and progress of certain groups with the class or school in relation to their peers. This may include boys vs girls, children with SEN, or pupil who attract pupil premium funding.
We believe that summative assessment is most useful when it is used to raise questions, such as; “Which areas of maths does this test result show to be a weakness or strength for this child/group/class?” This then allows for the formative use of summative data.
Statutory Assessment (Government Accountability Tests)
Statutory assessment refers to any test of check which is administered by law. These include foundation stage assessments, the year 1 and 2 phonics check, and assessments at the end of year 2 and year 6.
This data is used as accountability measures to compare schools across the country. Following the recent national changes to assessment, these tests and checks are almost all characterised by being “pass or fail” tests, with a set mark indicating that a child has met the standard. Children can therefore meet or miss the standard by a single mark. These tests and checks have very little value on a formative level.
There is a danger that, due to pressures of accountability, schools may focus too much on the narrow range of skills that are assessed in such tests. While we agree that basic skills are vitally important, at Shaw we strive to avoid a narrow curriculum by weaving these skills into a broad and balanced curriculum with lots of first-hand experience, visits, and engaging topic work.