There are many words that we would now wish to hear less often in this country, and indeed the world. From the irritating tautology of ‘global pandemic’ to the dread of ‘self-isolation’ – and let’s not even get started on ‘tiers’ or ‘alerts’.
So I’ll start by apologising for offering up another roadmap. Much like the plans laid out by the government, it’s neither a road, nor a map, but it does bear such a close relationship with other such representations that the name seemed appropriate.
The first being the Journey to 2022 – a road that the Assessment Foundation have been travelling since before it was even published for schools. It’s hard to believe that it has been six years since we attended meetings for the development of the Foundation Phase Profile, and were asked to pause some areas of work to take into account the release of the Successful Futures report in January 2015. The second being of course, the side-by-side paths laid out for the easing of lockdown on either side of the border.
We’d like to add to this by sharing ours with you today, because we know that the relationship between these two roadmaps comes with a heavy burden placed on schools. It’s not only education children have lost, but wellbeing also. It’s not only teaching time that teachers have lost, but the opportunity to prepare for the new curriculum in 2022.
Which is why we have focused our efforts on two things only; supporting recovery and supporting the path to the future.
We're also able to provide bespoke remote inset training if you'd like something custom to your school - please just let us know.
“Please can I ask you to pass on my best wishes and thanks to the team. You have all been absolutely brilliant once again this year. You make things a lot easier for me, thank you.”
This year, the Assessment Foundation are providing specialised support to secondary schools with transition data for the first time, helping secondary schools look at primary assessment data in depth, to understand what skills primary children bring with them.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taith360 – our new assessment system for Curriculum 2022 – is structured around the Areas of Learning. We’re working with Welsh curriculum experts to produce an exemplar framework for each Area – but better still, you can create your own custom framework to use in the system.
“We want to make sure we have the right assessment and planning system in place and from what I can see so far on your blog, Taith360 seems to be the complete package.”
With Taith360 available from September 2021, we’ll be ready to support your school in developing your own custom assessment for September 2022. You can start from our sample framework – or completely from scratch. Taith360 puts flexibility, customisation – and most importantly, the pupil first.
We’re here to help
There’s no sugar-coating the difficulties faced by schools. An already overburdened profession is being looked on to pick up the pieces of months of lost schooling, and with the same exhausted staff, take up the task of delivering a new curriculum too.
The Assessment Foundation is a non-profit organisation with a guiding mission statement: we want to reduce the non-teaching workload of teachers, and improve attainment for children. It’s the most overused phrase of them all – but now, more than ever we want to help schools in any way we can.
COO, The Assessment Foundation
It has been a year since the final version of Curriculum for Wales 2022 was released, and here at the Assessment Foundation we have been busy, alongside our focus groups, planning and designing a fitting assessment system to complement this new curriculum.
We are pleased to announce that we will be making a trial version available from September 2021.
“There is a ‘buzz’ about this new tool across the Assessment Foundation and beyond. As schools prepare to implement the new curriculum we are delighted that this new system has been built in collaboration with schools. It’s what they are seeking, and it’s one which will be flexible and adaptable.”
- Philip Dixon, CEO
One of the strengths of the new curriculum is that it provides a continuous journey through a child’s full-time education. There was a strong emphasis in our focus groups on the need to show a rounded picture of each child. So, we have combined the two in the new system name, Taith360.
With Taith360 you can ...
Taith360 will be available to both primary and secondary schools to capture a child’s whole educational journey. Taith360 also connects to your MIS, so set-up and data updates from your MIS are done automatically – saving a lot of admin!
The Assessment Foundation will provide an exemplar framework of progressive statements building towards the descriptions of learning for 2021 – but all schools will be able to add their own customised statements – or just use the descriptions of learning as they are.
Throughout development, schools have emphasised the need for flexibility and manageability – so we’ve made sure that we’ve reflected that every step of the way.
We’ll be sharing further details with you through the year as development progresses but if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our support team on 0300 234 2345 or email email@example.com
Sally Bliwert – Product Manager
An update from the CEO of the Assessment Foundation, Dr Philip Dixon, on the upcoming changes to assessment.
When the final version of Curriculum for Wales 2022 was released in January this year, few of us could have realised the massive disruption and disturbance that was about to take place in our children’s education and the lives of us all. While we should not underestimate the level of upheaval, the really remarkable thing is the way in which schools and teachers across Wales have risen to the challenge. Despite all the obstacles and problems, children have continued on their learning path and assessment for the next steps along that path continue to be made.
It is clear that neither the Welsh Government nor the profession want to lose the dynamism, enthusiasm, and desire that the development of the new curriculum has initiated. The timetable for implementation remains in place, with schools preparing for teaching of the new curriculum in 2021, and we are all called to play our part in delivery for September 2022.
The new system built by you
Here at the Assessment Foundation we have been working hard with schools and teachers to ensure that high quality, reliable, and useful assessments can still be made at this difficult time (see our previous blog for details). But our team has also been working flat out to develop an assessment system that delivers for the bright new world promised by Curriculum 2022. We have been engaging stakeholders across Wales in a series of focus groups and in depth discussions to ensure that what is produced is something formed, owned, and cherished by the profession.
Our experts at your service
As you know this is far from being the first time we have developed new assessment arrangements. The development of the Foundation Phase Profile that replaced the much-derided Child Development Assessment Profile as the baseline and ongoing assessment for 3-7 year olds was led by our Chief Operations Officer, Lucy Ridley, who has taken the reins of leadership in creating the assessment approach.
"I like to call this 'the 3D curriculum'. There's a wealth of support in the guidance for linking learning across the AOLEs and What Matter statements. Instead of a simple linear progression, this curriculum respects the natural twists and turns of learning and skill acquisition. The difficulty being, of course, realising a 3D curriculum in a 2D medium - on screen."
The creation of a new assessment system fitting to the new curriculum is an effort involving the whole team. Support Manager Adam Wilkinson has taken responsibility for reinventing our Focus Groups online.
"In what has been a very busy and strange period for schools, I would like to thank everyone who has supported us so far by giving their time to help us in our development sessions – the help has been invaluable as it will help inform our next stage of plans. In spite of the difficulties of this year, being able to hold meetings where we are not restricted geographically has been great. Working closely with groups of schools that have never worked together before has enabled us to facilitate wider and deeper discussions around the new curriculum."
But don’t just take our word for this - we've been delighted to receive positive feedback on our progress.
“Working in Focus Groups with the Assessment Foundation has given us the opportunity to discuss with other provisions how assessment will look in the Wales 2022 curriculum. This has helped us understand that, given the nature of the curriculum, each setting needs to be able to create their own criteria. The Assessment Foundation has listened to professionals in Wales.”
- Neil Purcell, The Court School
"The sessions have been very informative and professional. It's clear that the Assessment Foundation team have been doing a lot of preparation work to ensure that they have a system that is fit for purpose for the new curriculum. It's also very encouraging that they are utilizing the expertise of the education profession via numerous Teams meetings to ensure that it fits our needs. Great work!!!"
- Steven Cruickshank, Maesgwyn School
So what’s next?
We'll be sharing more features and updates about our brand new assessment system as we continue to develop new ideas with schools. You'll be able to…
How you can help
We're always looking for the input of schools to our system development - quite simply, we do it all for you! Sign up to our Feedback Group to hear the latest developments for Curriculum 2022, and feel free to email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or suggestions.
Dr Philip Dixon, CEO, The Assessment Foundation
As you will already know, yearly progress on Incerts is measured based on where pupils were assessed to be at the end of the previous year. However, it is quite possible that the assessments currently held on your Incerts aren’t an accurate reflection of what pupils are currently capable of, due to the period of enforced school closure and home schooling from March to June this year. For a number of pupils there will be skills that have been developed further during their time at home, due to the herculean efforts made by their teachers, providing the resources and support to ensure that learning continued. This, alongside the effort and attention put in by parents and guardians will hopefully have ensured that pupils continued to develop their skills throughout.
On the flipside, there will be other skills that may not have been looked at since March, and so those skills have been lost and need to be re-taught. Indeed, it is suggested in this article from the BBC that pupils may well be three months behind in their learning as a direct result of the enforced lockdown. As such, you will not want any ‘lost’ skills to be ticked on Incerts, as this will be misleading when you are using the system to inform lesson planning for the Autumn term.
All of this means that, in order to ensure that you have an accurate measure of progress for this year, you will want to update your assessments based on what you are observing in the classroom over the coming weeks, ahead of rolling the system forward to the new academic year. We recommend that you spend some time observing your pupils, identifying what they can and can’t do, and then amend the assessments on Incerts to make sure that you have an accurate starting point for recording progress. Then, when you roll forward, these amended assessments will show as an end of year assessment, and you can guarantee that the progress shown on the system from that point on will be accurate.
Of course, it is likely that you will have given some considerable thought to all of these issues yourselves, and you may have a different approach in mind for how you can surmount them. Rest assured that, however you intend to do this, we will be on hand to assist you in any way we can. So, if you need our help to show you how to un-tick boxes, or for any other part of the process, please get in touch.
Dan O’Dell, Support Team
We've been blown away by the brilliant way in which the entire education community have responded to this challenge, and we want to do whatever we can to continue offering our support.
Our team are on hand to help you with whatever you need, but right now we'd especially like to offer help in sharing information between teachers and parents, and with increasing our capacity to deliver free, remote training to any of our users.
We've had some brilliant feedback from past attendees who've found that our sessions have greatly improved their understanding of Incerts, and have translated that into time saved in school:
"Really interesting to see lots of features I didn't know were available! We do lots of this in a far more labour intensive way, so this will save us time!"
If you would like to book one of these training options, simply get in touch with us to let us know what you would like training on and how many people the training will be for, and we'll schedule something with you.
If you're thinking of sending your end of year reports out sooner than usual, we would recommend checking your current report templates (if you already have them set up on Incerts) and letting us know of any changes you would like.
Our example reports will give you some ideas (including grouping subjects under headings for the new AoLEs) – cherry-pick the features you like, and we’ll create new templates. You can also find these under the Reporting to Parents section of our Help & Advice site https://help.incerts.org/
We hope these suggestions are helpful, and if there's anything you need from us, please don't hesitate to get in touch..
Thank you to all schools who are doing an amazing job under extreme pressure. We appreciate that there is still plenty of work to be done after schools shut today and rest assured that we will be here as normal to offer support in any way we can. Now might be the time to investigate what more Incerts can do for you, and we are offering free remote training to any of our users who would like it.
We understand the importance of keeping our systems operational during this time and they will be kept protected and maintained as usual so you will be able to continue to use Incerts for assessment, analysis and report creation. Our Support Team are always on hand to help you with any challenges you face regarding remote working and electronic sharing especially.
We haven’t forgotten about the new curriculum and will continue to work on developing a system which will support this ready for 2022. We will be getting creative with coordinating with our focus groups to ensure we are meeting the needs of everyone.
We will aim to keep schools updated on the latest issues so please continue to check our blog and twitter feeds. We will also be in contact shortly in the normal way regarding report writing but please get in touch if you would prefer to get them generated before then.
Stay safe and well, and keep in touch.
It has been almost exactly five years since Graham Donaldson's Successful Futures report was published in March 2015, and on 28th January we finally were able to see the results of the years of co-construction, consultation and review. When we read the consultation feedback in October 2019, I was pleased to see the strong degree of consensus between our views and those of the respondents. There are a number of significant changes that have come about as a result, and I'll examine them here.
The new curriculum becomes statutory in September 2022 for children up to Year 7. Although current assessment arrangements remain in place until then, the focus of the next eighteen months will very much be on the future. Kath Lewis, the Strategic Lead for Expressive Arts in CSC, described the process as follows:
"We are by no means in a sprint to 2022, but perhaps more of a cross-country jog! There are many different routes that can be taken, and from a vast number of starting points. Some routes may appear easy, promising a flat, direct course, others may appear to offer quick wins with short cuts. What is certain is that no two schools will take the same route and that each will most likely need to stop, regroup and take stock before reaching a metaphorical – or actual – finish line!
So, what's changed?
A mere glance at the contents page can tell you how many pages have been cut from the document. This is a very satisfying change. There were heavy degrees of repeated content in the drafts, which obscured rather than revealed the detail.
There is also greater uniformity of content in each AOLE chapter, one example being the Principles of Progression (that will be statutorily enshrined as the Progression Code). Each AOLE is now prefaced by five headings describing how the skills progress along the continuum. (That is, five of the six - Mathematics and Numeracy have forged their own path.)
Overall though, there is a greater degree in consistency, with the different approaches cherry-picked from the best the draft had to offer. There have been small casualties in imposing this uniformity - for example the Expressive Arts had a very effective definition of progress that is now perhaps a little less brilliant for the change in format.
The most striking visual difference between the draft and final version of the curriculum is the presentation of the Achievement Outcomes - or should I say descriptors, for the former terminology is nowhere to be seen. The descriptors are now laid out horizontally in a grid, from Progression Step 1 to 5.
The Science and Technology team have gone a little further, and merged some of their grid boxes to give a greater clarity of the continuum through the Steps. These groupings are not strict assessment ladders with a hierarchy of one step to the next, but rather collections of statements. This is in keeping with our exploration of the descriptors, where skills blend and combine as children gain more sophisticated control of them.
What will be important in forming assessments around these Progression Steps is ensuring lateral, not vertical progress is prioritised, and that pupils engage in interlinked learning across the AOLEs.
There are some clear changes within individual AOLEs too. LLC is still by far the largest in size, but now shows a distinct difference in content. Translanguaging now appears far less frequently (and is mercifully put in simpler terms), and early reading strategies and SPAG are now more thoroughly fleshed out. Humanities has also had a dramatic makeover, with a decimation of the number of statements, especially at Progression Step 5.
Interestingly, the Four Purposes have perhaps taken less of a centre-stage in the final version. If this has a side-effect of deterring those putting these overarching aims into percentages and pie charts, it can only be a good thing.
Building your assessment
There are people already selling their 'ready-made' assessments and schemes to sit alongside Curriculum 2022. I applaud the surely Herculean efforts they must have gone to to achieve this within mere hours of the release of the final curriculum (especially given the volume of change, not limited to the above), but I fear that in their eagerness to please, they may have skipped the chapter on schools developing their own curriculum and assessment. For those who missed it, the help can be found on pages 21-47.
Formative assessment sits loudly and clearly at the heart of this new curriculum, and indeed, "Assessment arrangements at a school level are a matter for each school to determine as part of designing their own curriculum" (p230). This is not a task to be underestimated, in time nor in scope. Anyone hoping for - or indeed selling - a quick fix is spitting in the face of the opportunity to take the time to do this well not fast. It would be a great shame for schools to cut themselves out of a process that belongs to them.
Where do we go from here?
Now that the final version of the curriculum is available, we'll be working with schools to discuss how they intend to build their curriculum and assessment arrangements. Areas of investigation will include:
We'll discuss these issues, and others, with our focus group of schools, and you'll hear more from us as we work towards sharing our developments with all schools using Incerts from September 2020.
If you're interested in contributing to our work, please get in touch at email@example.com, or you can join our feedback group here.
Lucy Ridley, Chief Operations Officer
Hopefully you've all had an enjoyable summer break and have landed without too much of a bump into Autumn term. I'd like to update you on the work we've been doing over the summer at the Assessment Foundation, looking in further depth at the draft curriculum for 2022.
What we've found
It will be of no surprise that we've been looking at the structure of the new curriculum, most particularly the area of assessment. Whist the curriculum remains in draft form (the consultation closed upon the 19th July and we're awaiting the government's response), it has been of great interest to finally see and engage with what has been provided so far. The Pioneer Schools and steering groups should be rightly proud of what they have produced.
I have principally examined the Achievement Outcomes - the ‘I can’ and ‘I have’ statements - staged across five Progression Steps and arranged under What Matters statements. What immediately struck me was the great level of attention to detail that has been paid to the relationships between assessment statements. This is not news, of course - skills and knowledge are as interconnected as they are diverse. However, it is pleasing to see the connections made explicit. This will support practitioners in connecting learning experiences together, especially those getting to grips with sharing their subject disciplines at secondary (this vlog by Olchfa school is a great example).
The sheer size and complexity of the AoLE documents is their most striking feature. The documents are meaty, and the concepts are not small. One feels quite relieved that schools have until 2022 to implement this curriculum - understanding and absorbing the content alone will be challenge enough before you even come to the fact that what is provided is a broad framework to cover three-year stages. There are gaps to be filled, but first schools must get to grips with the size and shape of those gaps.
So, shark infested waters? No - but perhaps more like diving through a kelp forest. At first all that is evident is the mass of seaweed, but as one becomes accustomed to the light, layers of depth, little habitats, and areas of beauty appear. A rewarding result of what is undoubtedly a significant effort.
What we're doing next
We're planning to work more closely with schools on the draft curriculum, so we can harness the brilliant practice in Welsh education to steer the next generation of assessment in schools.
We're launching Assessment Foundation Curriculum Feedback Group to:
The localisation of assessment is both a challenge and an amazing opportunity for us to support assessment in new and exciting ways, and we want to get the best picture possible of what schools need.
"I'm very interested to work alongside the Assessment Foundation to investigate ways of developing a quality child centred assessment tool that would accurately support the new curriculum."
- Colin Jenkins, Headteacher, Buttington-Trewern Primary School
Whilst we work with 72% of primary schools in Wales, the Assessment Foundation have also worked with a number of secondary and 3-19 schools, supporting transition and assessment up to Y9. We plan to roll out our new assessment system to secondary schools also.
We know that schools are busy, and what's more, that there is a constant stream of messages arriving about Curriculum 2022. So joining will be opt-in. We'll still keep everyone up to date with major developments, but we'll only contact those who join the mailing list to ask questions and take feedback.
Lucy Ridley, Chief Operations Officer
With the Common Inspection Framework from Estyn (September 2017) there has been a shift towards analysing progress made in school. Inspectors look at progress made in the current academic year, across the Key Stage/Phase and since starting school.
Incerts can help you monitor progress, identify pupils falling behind, and put interventions in place to drive forward learning. Our Help & Advice section has lots of ideas to help, in particular the Tracking Progress page.
The Year 3 conundrum
Incerts uses a pupil’s scores from the end of the previous year as the starting point from which to record current year progress – without a ‘previous score’, progress cannot be measured. Normally, this isn’t a problem because pupils are usually assessed against the same descriptors year-to-year. However, when a pupil moves from being assessed against Outcomes in the Foundation Phase to Levels in Key Stage 2, things get a little bit tricky.
With the *old* descriptors, Outcomes 4, 5 and 6 “aligned” with Levels 1, 2 and 3. Whilst the link was tentative and much debated, Incerts was able to transfer information to aid progress tracking in Year 3.
Then, Welsh Government produced “recalibrated Outcomes” in 2015 when the Reception Baseline was introduced. Last year was the first year where pupils were assessed against these more challenging descriptors at the end of Year 2, and then transitioned to KS2 Levels in Year 3 – as expected, it has thrown up a variety of issues!
Following this change, the ‘alignment’ has been completely broken and Year 3 teachers will always begin the year with no Year 2 ticks on the Assess pages. Consequently, there is no ‘previous score’ on the same scale, and so Incerts has no starting point for measuring progress in Year 3.
In order to accurately demonstrate pupils’ progress in Year 3, we therefore recommend setting an ‘on-entry’ assessment at the beginning of Year 3. The obvious benefit is that you’ll create a ‘previous score’ for each pupil, against the same descriptors (KS2 Levels) – you’ll then be comparing like with like.
So how can I do this on Incerts?
We’ve developed a way for teachers to record an initial assessment for pupils in Year 3, and then push it back to create this starting point.
At the beginning of the year, Year 3 teachers should spend some time observing their new pupils, and if possible, work with the Year 2 teacher to establish what they can do. When ready, teachers should record their initial assessments on Incerts (this will have an impact on workload of course, so your school may decide to do this in literacy and numeracy only, or just the core subjects, for example).
Once recorded, someone with Admin rights must set the assessments as the starting point. They need to go to Edit and then Edit School, and hover over the ‘advanced feature’ next to the Set On-Entry button and click the link that appears.
This takes you to a new page where you should follow these steps:
1. Select “All of Yr 3” in the “Class/Group” dropdown
2. Tick boxes for the pupils you wish to create a starting point for (or Select All)
3. Press Move Ticks
4. Read the message and tick the box to confirm you have understood the warning
5. Confirm the operation
All assessments recorded to this point in Year 3 will then be pushed back so that they appear in the previous year (i.e. Year 2). Teachers will notice that the ticks will have changed from the green colour (denoting Year 3) to orange (Year 2), and they will be able to record pupils’ progress through the rest of the year against this starting point.
Setting an ‘On-Entry’ Assessment for Nursery PupilsSchools with a Foundation Phase will already be aware of the process for setting the Reception Baseline on Incerts. But some schools also have a Nursery setting, and since Estyn might be interested in seeing progress “since starting school”, it can be useful to record an ‘On-Entry’ assessment when Nursery pupils start at your school.
To do this, Nursery teachers need to record what pupils can do when they first start at the school. Then, much like the process described above for Year 3, someone with Admin Right needs to set the assessments as the starting point.
For the new pupils that start in September, simply click the Set On-Entry button on Edit School.
The Set On-Entry button can only be pressed once each academic year. So, for late starters or staggered intakes, you will need an extra step to record their On-Entry positions:
We hope this is clear and helpful, but as always, we’re here to help – if you have any questions, please contact our Support Team.
Adam Wilkinson, Support Team
So, the new curriculum has been unveiled and is now out for consultation. There’s a great deal to unpack. From the introduction of Progression Steps, through the achievement outcomes themselves to the proposed new assessment arrangements, there is a great deal of depth and detail that the Assessment Foundation is very pleased to see. It’s a tribute to all those who have been working on the new curriculum and assessment arrangements since the publication of Successful Futures in 2015.
On the day of the release our Chief Executive, Dr Philip Dixon, was quoted in the Western Mail:
"Today is a start to the process of putting meat on the bones of the principles and purposes outlined in Successful Futures and elsewhere. The 'What Matters' statements will help schools to frame their curriculum offer. Key to this will be the new national model which the Welsh Government will be producing. But equally key will be the resources - in terms of both time and money - that will be available to teachers to develop this new curriculum. The workforce are crucial to its success. The new assessment regime will also need careful examination and robust critique to ensure that its main purpose is centred unequivocally on learning"
It must be remembered that these reforms are concerned with curriculum and assessment. There are some salient points within the documentation that are of especial interest:
It’s particularly notable that the draft assessment arrangements are at pains to point out what the purpose of assessment isn’t - broad, brush stroke judgements of a child’s ability, used for accountability purposes. The Assessment Foundation is very pleased to see that the main emphasis of the document is loudly and repeatedly in favour of formative assessment.
Whilst we look forward to the introduction of the new curriculum, it is important to remember that for the time being, the current assessment and reporting arrangements (Outcomes and Levels) remain fully in place until 2022. The new curriculum and associated requirements will be rolled out to schools as follows:
Many of our supporters in Wales have been in touch regarding our plans for Successful Futures and the implementation of the new curriculum. We’ve always planned to implement a new, formative online assessment that aligns with the updated curriculum, and now we are happy to be able to see some of the detail and begin our preparations. We will be trialling our ideas on the finalised curriculum from 2020 onwards, and seeking feedback from schools to aid the development of our new assessment tool. It follows that a curriculum designed by schools should be served by an assessment tool designed for those same schools. We look forward to working with you!
Lucy Ridley, Chief Operations Officer