Our teaching teams are constantly assessing as they ask questions, observe and listen because accurately assessing what and how children are learning ensures that all pupils can achieve excellence.
Being as close as possible to the ‘teachable moment’ – in space and time – is fundamental to the way we assess and how we plan next steps in learning. We place great store by this style of formative assessment for learning during lessons, as well as summative assessments of learning, where the children are assessed against national standards.
Instant feedback has far greater impact on the children than marking piles of books at the end of the day, although assessing through marking is still important. At Eleanor Palmer, we do not write lengthy comments or use unnecessarily complex deep marking. Instead, marking informs the next lesson and recognises children’s effort, progress and achievements.
Questioning, quizzing and memory
Lessons should be spaces of discovery in which children ask as well as answer questions. Inquisitiveness and intellectual curiosity throughout our school community are expected and celebrated, and we place great importance on the skill of asking questions.
We start lesson sequences by finding out what children already know (including misconceptions which need to be dispelled) and what they would like to find out. Teachers’ questions are well planned to prompt retrieval and connections and to probe deeper thinking. All children are expected to reason, whatever their starting points. No child should experience repeated failure or endless, effortless success. The wonderful children we have at our school deserve to be challenged and our teaching teams work hard to do so.
Our research into memory has led us to develop a system of low-stakes quizzing across all subjects in which children aim to beat their personal-best or a class-best. For example, teachers use Knowledge Organisers to quiz children on their history, geography or science knowledge, and they use maths factual fluency quizzes several times a week. We also ensure we build in questions, games and activities that ‘interrupt forgetting’ throughout the school day, asking children to recall and become fluent with facts, freeing up their working memory for deeper reasoning, across all subjects.
Knowing and remembering more over time
It is crucial that teachers assess whether children are knowing and remembering more over time. Teachers make meaningful, purposeful assessments of children’s attainment in reading, writing and maths each term to assess whether children are working at, towards or at greater depth within age-related expectations. Their assessments are informed by their deep knowledge of each child, the children’s daily work, end of unit mini-assessments known as ‘Show What You Know’, and end of term tests and tasks.
In maths, teachers use termly assessment tests in reasoning and arithmetic as well as more regular ‘low stakes, high frequency’ quizzes on factual fluency. In reading, teachers use reading comprehension tests and each term, the whole school writes a Big Write without teacher scaffolding or modelling so that we can see what children can write independently. These assessments are always conducted in a safe, ‘low stakes’ manner, and teachers talk with the classes about their purpose – to help us to see how much they have learnt and to help us improve the way we teach.
- Within the first half term of children joining Reception, we carry out the statutory Baseline Assessment, for which we assess each child’s starting points with us. This is done as part of the teacher’s normal work with the class.
- Towards the end of Year 1, we carry out the Phonics Check and again, this is a quick one to one assessment that most children find fun, if they note it at all!
- In the summer term of Year 2 we formally record teacher assessments for maths, reading and writing. We use Key Stage 1 SATs – tests in maths and reading (not writing) – to inform these assessments. They are our ‘special quizzes’ and children take them in their stride confidently and comfortably because of the manner in which we prepare and conduct them.
- In Year 4, the children do the national MTC tests (Multiplication Tables Check) which is an online test of times table facts. By this stage, most children are more aware of this test and we prepare for this as a class with lots of quizzes, games, online practice at home, and of course, really good teaching which secures the relationships between these facts as well as practising them by rote.
- In May of Year 6, children sit the end of Key Stage 2 SATs in maths, reading, and spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG). Our preparation in the few weeks before still adheres to our ethos and elements of purposeful ‘revision’ are done within an enthusiastic, positive and collaborative atmosphere – most children find them fun and even miss them when they’re over!
Celebrating and reporting progress and success
We recognise and value high achievement across the curriculum and find opportunities for children to excel – from the borough swimming gala, inclusive sports events, to entering (and gaining distinctions in!) the National Engineering Awards. Just as important as high achievement, though, is our culture of celebrating progress. The children have personal best scores in times table quizzes just as they do in their ‘3 Lap Challenge’ in PE.
Teachers meet with parents individually to discuss progress, mid autumn term; in the spring term when teachers write reports about each child’s progress so that next steps can be planned together; and then at the end of each school year, when outcomes are reported. These more formal opportunities to discuss progress sit within a very open approach where we are available to talk to parents and carers at the beginning and end of the day, we make regular phone calls and write notes home to keep parents and carers informed of their children’s progress.