Press Release | 14 December 2021

Here’s to a comparatively good Christmas

So, you’ve successfully navigated the first term, 7 long weeks of restrictions, absences, returns, further illnesses (it’s probably terrible flu), on-line learning, face to face, catch-up teaching, all the while you’ve been dodging the worst pandemic in 100 years like the last child on the playground in a game of British Bulldog. Well done, you made it!

As the new term starts, nativity parts are handed out to be learned while caretakers across the land unwind and unravel the knot of Christmas tree lights, set out the nativity scene and polish the presents of the three wise men; Curriculum, Ofsted and Assessment. I digress, but with the advent of the holiday season upon us, so too are the first full assessment points for all teachers, in all year groups, in all classes.

For the teacher, ‘How well are my children doing?’, ‘How does this compare to the expectation of attainment and progress in my year group?’, ‘What will SLT say?’ ‘Will this affect my performance management?’ ‘How can I use this information to improve my teaching next time around?’ So many questions, no Angel Gabriel.

In Primary Literacy at least this might mean comparing children’s outcomes to a rubric or checklist that you’ve been planning and teaching ‘the essential skills’ to meet the criterion over a number of weeks, a couple of cold or ‘apprentice’ writes where the children are presented with a stimulus and asked to write for a length of time to see how well they’ve learned the content, and the mark scheme! Acres of marking, feedback, green and red pen and a keystage or whole school moderation later and you’ve got your assessment of writing - done!

The tick box approach will have certainly got some of the way to ‘proving-attainment’ and, based on having gone through the same process the year before, ‘proving progress’ but the unintended consequences of this approach are often that writing can be formulaic, smattered with hyphens and semi colons, particularly in KS2, where writing ‘prioritises skills’ that need to be ‘met’ over developing a great narrative and engaging the reader. And what of the comparison between schools, either within your MAT, local authority or across wider geographical locations? What of that? How can you truly understand what attainment and performance looks like when compared on a national scale?

Just over 2,000 children have been moderated in the first 2 months of this academic year, all age groups from Year 1 – Year 6. By return, all schools have a good idea of the quality of writing in their classroom, who in their schools meets the requirements for WTS/EXP/GD in each key stage and, because of the unique way that the moderations have been conducted and the reports that were able to be produced, what the cross-over between year groups looks like. This sort of information has been invaluable in planning targeted classroom work for children and has encouraged teachers to share planning and outcomes on a wider scale to support each other in planning the next stage of learning for each of their children.

Schools are also able to see a variety of work from a multitude of different schools. In year 4 moderation, for instance, 77 teacher moderators were able to look at 66 different pairs of work from children who were not in their class using comparative judgement. As one Head Teacher put it: “Do not underestimate the power of being able to see into the classrooms of others, at the work of other children as a tool to support your own CPD.”

The programme continues and all schools will continue to moderate together for the remainder of the academic year. One further moderation event is planned for Years 1,3, 4 and 5 while Year 2 and Year 6 have two more sessions planned as attempt to develop a ‘portfolio of evidence’ approach to using comparative judgement. The final outcome remains to be seen but early signs are very encouraging: teachers have reduced time marking, been exposed to writing across other local schools, have had the writing outcomes of their children benchmarked against peers, been able to feedback a real sense of WAGOLL to pupils, and had insightful development CPD to boot. Looks like Christmas has come early for all those involved!

Steve Dew, Headteacher
Director of

About RM

RM’s technology business unit enables the improvement of education outcomes around the world through the innovative use of existing and emerging technologies. With a heritage dating back almost 50 years, supporting schools, teachers and pupils across the globe – from pre-school to higher education – including examination boards, central governments and other professional institutions.

About RM plc

RM’s technology division is part of the listed company RM plc – the £189m turnover British business, with c. 1,837 employees globally. Established in 1973, RM plc’s Group purpose is to enrich the lives of learners worldwide.

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Scott Mordue

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