Building the Curriculum 5 says

A coherent approach to planning the curriculum, learning, teaching and assessment is necessary. In order to gather good quality evidence of learners’ progress through relevant experiences, staff need a range of approaches that reflect the breadth, challenge, and application of learning and the wide range of skills being developed.

 If this is what we are working towards (and I’d like to think it is) why oh why do teachers persist in expecting me to produce a magic kit of answers to a student’s learning difficulties without any knowledge of how that student performs his or her understanding? Are children with learning difficulties not entitled to as rigorous, wide ranging, thorough and formative assessment as others?

 The purposes of assessment are:

  • to support learning that develops the knowledge and understanding, skills, attributes and capabilities which contribute to the four capacities
  • to give assurance to parents, learners themselves, and others, that children and young people are progressing in their learning and developing in line with expectations
  • to provide a summary of what learners have achieved
  • to contribute to planning the next stages of learning and to help learners progress

I’m having a moan here because it seems that there are some who have not yet grasped these basic principles. As I was leaving a school recently a teacher asked me to interpret a screening test profile. I declined, knowing that the gates were about to be shut and I would be locked in until after lunch. She persisted and I ended up taking the thing with me saying I would look it over in more detail. However, I know nothing else about this student except name and date of birth.

The customary procedure is to gather ‘good quality evidence of learners’ progress through relevant experiences using a range of approaches which reflect the breadth and depth of achievement in learning’. In the case of a learner who may have dyslexia this can entail a summary of the child’s strengths and areas of difficulty, examples of learning with and without support, evidence of learning programmes and strategies already tried, attainments in reading, spelling and writing, clarification whether s/he has had hearing and sight checked and whether there have been significant absences (physical or emotional) in the crucial early years.

In addition, involvement of other agencies, particularly Speech and Language Therapy, and any family history of dyslexia needs to be noted. This way we can ensure ‘that curriculum, learning and teaching and assessment form a coherent experience’ and that the child’s ‘attributes and capabilities’ are examined as well as her or his ‘knowledge and understanding and skills’.

Teachers sometimes complain about the paper work – and I understand why – but if we are to do justice to the child’s learning needs then this evidence gathering is essential.

Once I had extricated myself I read my emails as I bolted my sandwich down. Another teacher was asking for a reading test for ‘an able reader’. She seemed surprised that I thought the age of the child was relevant. Actually, an able reader age 6 could at least start with tests for primary children; an able reader age 10 might well require something more demanding! Finally it transpired that the parents had requested a test score prior to their child being examined for a scholarship to a private school!

‘We don’t support 2-tier systems’, I replied and suggested she treat the request with the contempt it deserves!

Building the Curriculum 5 states that assessment is ‘part of ongoing learning and teaching’. We assess

• by using a variety of approaches and range of evidence to fit the kind of learning

• by making assessment fit for purpose and appropriately valid, reliable and proportionate

• through partnership working

to inform future improvements in learning and teaching.

 I wish!