The consistency, rigour and rationale behind a school’s assessment system will be a key area for inspectors to explore with senior leaders and governors as part of a judgement on leadership and management
The previous ‘Teaching and Learning’ Ofsted judgement has been redefined for the September 2015 Ofsted framework and is now ‘Teaching, Learning and Assessment’. What are the implications of this? Will inspectors spend more time looking at marking I hear you ask anxiously?
Ofsted makes it very clear that they are interested in all types of assessment information and whilst marking and feedback, oral and written, are important types of assessment, they are not expecting to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback.
They understand that schools are at different stages in terms of implementing their preferred assessment processes and discussions will focus on the progress you are making in determining your preferred assessment design, your timeline and how you as school leaders will monitor the accuracy of assessment.
The consistency, rigour and rationale behind a school’s assessment system will be a key area for inspectors to explore with senior leaders and governors as part of a judgement on leadership and management.
However Ofsted are very clear that they do not want to see any particular type of assessment information or information presented in any particular way– just how it is being used effectively, the decisions you are taking as a result of your assessment and what impact it is having on pupil progress.
So what can you expect?
An increased emphasis on assessment
Ofsted has said that there is an increased emphasis on assessment and inspectors will want to explore your approach to assessment, i.e. how you are using assessment information to support teachers’ planning and pupils’ learning and how assessment information is being used to identify those in need of support, i.e. asking yourselves the questions: ‘Where is this student up to in her/his learning?’ and then ‘Where should s/he go next?’
As ever with inspections, the team will triangulate evidence by finding out about assessment practice on the ground - talking to teachers to see if there is a clear understanding of the school’s assessment policy and checking for consistency in implementation and talking to pupils about how the feedback helps them progress and identify what they need to do to improve.
Recently Ofsted have been concerned about a number of areas linked to assessment: - transition between key stages, the challenge of work at KS3 and the achievement of more able pupils.
Consequently you can expect inspectors to be asking about how assessment information is used at points of transition (particularly between key stages 1 and 2 and 3 and 4), how it is used to establish pupils’ starting points, how pupils are tracked and challenged at KS3, how it is used to organise pupil groupings and to set aspirational targets for more able pupils. It will be up to schools to show evidence of pupil progress from starting points.
Inspectors will expect to see both formative and summative assessment and will be particularly interested in the latter to see how you are preparing pupils for a linear exam world.
As Ofsted’s methodology for collecting evidence has not changed, they will still be spending time in lessons gathering first hand evidence and making judgements about the quality of teaching, learning and assessment.
This means they will focus on the quality of teacher questioning, how well teachers check pupils’ understanding, the impact of feedback, the quality of teacher planning, how assessment is being used to move learning forward and how well pupils display their knowledge, understanding and skills.
Clarity is key
Before an inspection the inspection team will analyse published data, however in this framework, much the greater weight and emphasis is given to the progress of current pupils across year groups and subjects. As inspectors will not have had prior access to this, it will be important for schools to present their assessment information in a clear and succinct way so that the team can establish the accuracy of the school’s assessment information.
Schools can now clearly take professional ownership of their bespoke assessment and develop it to suit their pupils and their context. Standardisation, moderation with other schools, monitoring procedures across departments, external validation, training of your staff in assessment and possibly having expert assessors in school will all help reinforce the veracity of your school’s assessment information.
Ultimately Ofsted will have to take the information you present at face value and you will need to present it in a way so that inspectors can unpick it quickly and understand the progress pupils are making and then match this with what they see in lessons. There must be no discrepancy between your assessment information and the knowledge, understanding and skills displayed in pupils’ work and in lessons.
The inspection team will also be checking that the school gives parents information about how well their child is progressing, how well they are doing in relation to the standards expected and what their child needs to do to improve.
Increased focus on the curriculum
Currently schools are grappling with the implementation of new curricula and designing successful assessment structures and assessment methodologies linked to their curriculum. Just as there is more focus on assessment, there is also increased focus on the curriculum and how it is meeting the differing needs of your pupils and preparing them for the next stage of their education.
Curriculum and assessment are inextricably linked and successful schools will be able to articulate the synergy between the two and how they both impact on pupil progress.
The master card
On a final note what is paramount with any assessment structure or system is how teachers use the policy and make consistent judgements about pupils’ progress and attainment particularly across departments. How do you know every teacher is assessing accurately? A robust answer to this question has to be your master card to play in an inspection!
Follow Suzanne on Twitter @Ofarrellsuzanne