As the nation celebrated the Queen’s official birthday over the weekend, I found another good excuse for cake – Friday (10 June) marked a year since we published the first Ofsted blog!
I'd like to say a big thank you to the thousands of you who’ve read our fairly regular blogposts and shared them – please do encourage more people to subscribe.
Through the blog we have been able to explain changes to inspection, highlight processes, and respond to comments. Importantly, the blog has also allowed me to dispel some of the misconceptions about what Ofsted expects school leaders and teachers to do ‘for inspection’ leading to our very first Vine about marking.
It's true; we really don’t expect teachers to use different coloured pens! Recently we have published a set of slides about #Ofstedmyths for those who’d like to present the facts of what Ofsted expects to others on their school staff – just login to SlideShare to download the slides.
It seems many of you have also found our posts on short inspections (still our top blog) and school governance very useful too. I’d like to assure you that my colleagues and I will continue to use this space to update you on inspection practice.
To that end I thought it might be useful to explore a topic that I know has caused a large degree of apprehension for some schools – ‘assessment without levels’.
Learning First conference
With schools no longer able to use ‘national curriculum levels’ to assess children’s progress, some are spending lots of time and effort working on their curriculum and assessment systems to monitor the progress of their children and to use the information gained to support achievement.
Last month I attended a #LearningFirst conference in Sheffield organised by Dame Alison Peacock and Julie Lilly. It brought together teachers and school leaders to share expertise and ideas on how to solve the issues around assessment without levels. I thought it was a great example of school-led improvement in action. I came away thinking about how we at Ofsted can also help to keep the momentum going, including by supporting this movement, attending and listening to colleagues.
As I see it, it isn't about tracking numbers. At the root of ‘beyond levels’ is that assessment should be based on the curriculum and the school’s vision for its pupils’ learning, not the other way round.
Schools can develop effective assessment systems by first setting out a broad, balanced curriculum and being clear on the big ideas that they want their children to understand. Their next step is to identify milestones in children's learning along the way to understanding those big ideas, and when they expect these to be achieved by the pupils. Successful schools then set out the routes for learning to those milestones and their teachers provide the level of challenge required through their expectations of the pupils’ work. Then, and only then are the assessment system and methods considered, so that real progress along the pathways can be checked, i.e. identifying what the pupils know, understand and can do that they didn’t or couldn’t before. The key then is how the school uses the information, in whatever form suits the school and its pupils best, to support further achievement.
As I said at the conference, it’s for schools to take control, make more creative use of curricular freedoms, and crucially, do what is best for their children, not for Ofsted.
Over to you
You can hear more on my views about assessment without levels and #Ofstedmyths through a recent podcast interview I did for NAHT Edge.
Do let me know what your school is doing. I'd also appreciate if you could submit a comment or idea under this post or through @HarfordSean on Twitter on what else you’d like us to blog about.
I look forward to another year of debate and engagement, and I will continue to listen.