“No, after you, I insist”: Making bold assessment decisions

In the absence of guidance from the DfE following the removal of levels, many school leaders had a perfectly natural reaction: to look at what other schools were doing, and see what assessment systems were out there.

In May 2014, the DfE announced the provision of funding to a number of applicant schools who were developing their own assessment strategies; and many schools (not just the beneficiaries of the funding) have put together highly detailed, impressive systems. But developing such a system takes time, requires a lot of leadership and excellent personnel management – and ultimately, they are a risk.

What if after all that time, this new system does not really suit your school’s needs? What if you bet on the wrong horse? Or, as a senior leader at a Doddle event in Manchester charmingly worded it earlier this year – “what if, instead of picking the VHS of KS3 assessment, we choose the Betamax by mistake?”

This wasn’t just a case of being afraid to be the first to put one’s head over the parapet. Every school wants a practical, effective system, that won’t just measure student progress but will also improve outcomes for students.

For me, this idea of Solution A vs Solution B is a misunderstanding of the issue at hand. The focus for every school should be on the underlying concepts of progress, because everything else flows from this. At its core, Doddle Progress has three overriding concepts behind it:

1) break down the curriculum in every subject into meaningful, assessable skills;

2) assess your students on the individual skills – this is the key driver for improving outcomes;

3) create a consistent 1-9 system that flows through to the new GCSE grades, so that a school can implement systems to run across the key stages.

The detail of how to organise and communicate that assessment is what comes afterwards: whether you follow a mastery system; however you deal with different ability streams; whether a school reports fine detail or top-level numbers to parents – all of these build on having the right underlying assessment data in place.

However your assessment system looks right now, it would be unreasonable to expect that it will look exactly the same in three years’ time. There is time and flexibility to adapt and optimise what your school is doing.

Are you likely to ever settle on the perfect system? I’d suggest not. But by focussing on the fundamentals of curriculum-based assessment data, you’ll give your middle leaders the tools to demonstrate progress effectively, give them the insights that shape their teaching and learning, and bring them the confidence and reassurance that everyone is singing from the same hymnsheet.

See what Doddle can do for your school

Book a free in-school visit at a time and date to suit you. You can meet with one of our Education Consultants to find out more about how Doddle can help you improve outcomes.