Sharing joy and knowledge from an ordinary life

#LearningFirst How can we develop a shared understanding of assessment, with children?

Mary Myatt @MaryMyatt

Behind every letter and number attributed to a child’s work sits a child and that letter or number tells us something, but not everything, about what they can do.

All our children love doing difficult things- we are a challenge seeking species if we have a vested interest in what we’re doing- if the conditions are right and intrigue and curiosity have been created. We need to eradicate threat though- none of us wants to be made to feel a muppet.

Testing, under the right conditions, is where learning takes place. Through the things they produce, we gain insight into where they are and what they can do. And some of that can be through what they say.

Watch more of Mary’s views on high challenge, low threat here:


Marc Rowland @natedtrust_marc

I don’t know whether it was just because he used some art but Marc’s words stuck with more than many throughout the day.

He displayed the following painting, A Disastrous Sea by Turner, and summarised the event it depicts: as the ship went down, the crew were rescued and the women and children were left to die. On a turbulent sea, they lost sight of what was important. This happens all too easily in education when external targets end up driving what we do; that’s when the already disadvantaged students and their families suffer.


Image available from here

Making assumptions is dangerous- especially where disadvantaged pupils are concerned. We need to instead ensure that we ascertain what they know and what they don’t yet know. We need to ask other important questions too; rather than assuming we already know the answers: Do they have the strategies to be successful learners? Do they understand the purpose of getting things wrong? What is their disposition towards learning? For instance, don’t just assume students have a limited vocabulary: ensure you make use of a clear evidence base to inform you. Just as we mustn’t make assumptions about students, we mustn’t make them about parents either. If they’re not engaging with their child’s learning then it isn’t necessarily because they had a difficult experience of school. We can support everyone else much more effectively if we understand their needs and past experiences more accurately in the first place. Making assumptions often prevents us from looking at ourselves; in assuming that students and parents are hard to reach, we fail to consider whether we’re a hard to reach school or college.

Ask the tough questions about your school or college: does every teacher and every person involved in a pupil’s learning (from the receptionist to the CEO) genuinely believe that everyone can achieve highly- no matter what their background? Don’t lower the bar for these students purely because of their background: understand the barriers but don’t kill them with kindness.

Check your language- the messages we give out to staff and students affects their attitudes- we need to erase language of the ‘pupil premium child’, ‘bottom set’ and ‘narrowing the gap.’ There is no such thing as ‘low ability’ and as long as we continue to make reference to it, the longer people will make allowances for it.

Natalie Packer @NataliePacker

Natalie outlined the new ‘person centred review’ for SEND students, which seeks to put the student at the centre of their own progress and enables them to make choices about their own learning. The review begins with the student presenting a self-assessment of their own learning progress to the teaching team, their family, and other relevant parties. A holistic picture of the student’s strengths, needs and aspirations and longer-term outcomes is built up. Assessment information is used as part of this picture, but it’s not just their academic progress this reflects, it’s their progress far beyond this too.

Learner-led reviews have begun to take place in some schools for all students (regardless of SEND). This process can allow students to own their progress and to have a far greater understanding and contribution to their own learning.

Read my full reflections on the day here

My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

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