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This morning I had a brief conversation with @SheliBB regarding the Key Stage 1 writing exemplification materials. Sheli expressed her concerns about workload for each child and also discussed a child who is working at the expected standard apart from letter reversals and poor handwriting due to dyslexia. Sheli was asking for thoughts on this matter.

I have watched this debate growing over the last couple of days and it has close parallels with the way assessment is conducted in special schools. As everyone knows, a huge number of children in our special schools are on P Scales and never reach the dizzy heights of Key Stage tests. The only way we can ensure our assessment is rigorous is to moderate across school and furthermore to moderate with other schools on a regional basis. It is quite common for our subject leaders to travel 30 miles to other special schools with similar cohorts simply to ensure our TA is beyond reproach. Even with all this checking everyone will agree that teacher trust is an important component in teacher assessment.

Teacher Assessment is not new to mainstream schools. Teachers are therefore well aware of how to conduct TA. The idea is this:

‘Teachers must base their teacher assessment judgement on a broad range of evidence from across the curriculum for each pupil’ (DfE Interim TA framework)

and

‘Individual pieces of work should be assessed according to a school’s assessment policy and not against this interim framework.’ (DfE Interim TA framework)

It was always my understanding with Teacher Assessment that the teacher’s judgement could be relied upon.  As with special school teachers the teacher was trusted to know their job. The child has been in the same class under the guidance of the teacher for a whole year and the teacher knows them best. The teacher would select a range of evidence as above and reach a conclusion to determine if the child is working at the expected level. If the child usually benefits from some support due to their dyslexia or any other difficulty this should be taken in to account and the teacher’s judgement should prevail.

The SEND Code of Practice 2014 points out that Dyslexia is a recognised difficulty under the Equality Act 2010. If the Code of Practice recognises that appropriate support is required why doesn’t the DfE? The Interim Framework doesn’t explicitly refer to dyslexia but the fact that letter reversals and spellings are a key part of the assessment shows a level of discrimination.

There are two statements which shed some light on the matter of handwriting. The first statement allows for handwriting to be totally excluded from Teacher Assessment if a child is physically disabled. The second statement allows for illegible writing to be graded as ‘expected’ but cannot reach ‘greater depth’. As a teacher of children with SEND this does not sit fairly with me. Access arrangements should allow for adaptations to be made. Writing is more than physical writing, it encompasses understanding of a text, sentence construction and much more. How is this fair for a child with dyslexia? It almost fees like a punishment for the child if they can only reach the expected standards and no more.

Furthermore, this afternoon I was chatting to @MariaSt Marys who is very knowledgable with all things dyslexia related. Maria pointed out that if you’re dyspraxic and can’t write using horizontal joins you cannot even reach KS1 expected. This places those children below. The Interim Framework states quite clearly “teachers will need to have evidence that a pupil demonstrates attainment of all of the statements within that standard and all the statements in the preceding standard(s).”

For me all this is quite shocking. We seem to have taken a huge leap backwards with this framework. It is going to be very difficult for many children to achieve the ‘expected’ level but for those with dyspraxia, dyslexia and other difficuties there seems to be little hope of success.

I hope that this will be amended for the 2017 tests. At the moment it feels uncomfortably wrong.

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