In 2015 the national curriculum ‘levels’ that were introduced in 1988 were retired. At Budehaven, we have embraced this once in a generation chance to rethink and redesign our approach to teaching and assessing our youngest pupils. From the outset, we knew that we wanted to increase the status of the first few years of secondary schooling. These are the years in which strong foundations are set down so that our pupils are ready and willing to take on the challenges and demands of GCSE and ‘A’ Level courses as young adults. We want these years to excite young minds and build the belief that success is the outcome of hard work towards aspirational goals. For eighteen months, we collaborated with an inspiring network of local secondary schools, including those who won Assessment Innovation Awards for their work. We looked at what they had done and learned from their trial and error along the way and before we launched our assessment model.
Our Vision: Assessment without Limits
When a pupil joins Budehaven in Year 7, they have already started their journey towards mastery of The Wonder Years curriculum. What we teach is predetermined by the National Curriculum for key stage three but we have also employed ‘backward design’ so that what we assess is tracked backwards from GCSE – we know that we are assessing learning and progress in the knowledge and skills critical to GCSE success. We have thought carefully about the ‘habits’ necessary for success in each subject and it is these we assess in years 7-9.
The extent to which your child has mastered each ‘habit’ statement is assessed by teachers using the following scale:
A student who can be graded ‘Secure’ against most of the ‘habits’ statements in a particular subject is on course to achieve the international benchmark of Grade 5 at GCSE. This is pitched at half a grade or two thirds of a grade above the expectation for the old GCSE ‘C’ grade.
We make the following promises to our pupils and their parents:
- We will work hard to ensure that all students are both challenged and supported to reach the all-important milestone of ‘Secure’, regardless of their prior attainment.
- We will put every student on the pathway to ‘Mastery’; regardless of their prior attainment; we will present them with assessment opportunities that encourage performance at ‘Mastery’
- We will design high-quality end of topic assessments so that students can achieve as well as they possibly can; our assessments will form an excellent training ground for the demands of GCSE examinations.
- We will use the data derived from assessments to identify to students what they have and have not mastered, and to what extent they have succeeded. We will then plan lessons to address areas of underperformance and to stretch students ever closer to ‘Mastery’.
- We will report to parents twice per year, informing them of how their children have performed in subject-based assessments during that time period.
- In our feedback to students, we will place a strong emphasis on developing the Growth Mindset that leads to successful outcomes. We will talk to students about the learning behaviours they are using and how these can be improved upon to close in on ‘Mastery’.
Everyday Marking and Feedback
Most of the time, the grading scale outlined here will only be applied to end of topic formal assessments. However, your child’s teachers will also be keeping an ongoing record of how he/she is performing in the build-up to the final assessment so that they can be planning the appropriate amount of challenge and support in their lessons. Throughout this time, pupils can expect to receive ‘formative feedback’ from their teacher:
WWW (What Went Well) – The teacher will tell pupils specifically what they did correctly, or particularly well. This will often be focused on something they have done which shows progress.
EBI (Even Better If) – The teacher will tell pupils specifically what they can do to improve. This might be in the form of a question chosen to deepen or extend thinking, or it might be presented in the form of a task for pupils to do next, guiding them ever closer to mastery of that skill or knowledge focus.
MRI (My Response Is) – Pupils are expected to respond directly and promptly to this type of feedback. They should make corrections, complete unfinished work, re-write a passage of work or make improvements to work as directed by the teacher. This will usually be done in purple pen so that the attempted move towards mastery is highly visible to the teacher.
This type of feedback is highly valuable to pupils. We know from extensive educational research that formative feedback, if acted upon, can double the rate of progress made by the learner.
Pupils should not expect to see ongoing classwork graded against the ‘Introduced’… ‘Mastery’ scale (we call it ‘Assessment without Limits’ internally). We would encourage pupils to focus on the detail of the feedback they receive rather than placing excessive emphasis on performance against a scale during the formative stage of teaching. It is the feedback that will support progress towards ‘Mastery’, not the grade attached. Formal assessment pieces will be graded in due course and so pupils will not lack information on how they are doing.