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Teacher assessment of writing: remove “secure fit” and change the teacher assessment frameworks

Since the introduction of the interim teacher assessment frameworks for writing, and our members’ experiences of using them last year, NAHT has been campaigning for significant change to the assessment of writing at key stage 1 and key stage 2.

Firstly, there must be a move to a "best fit" approach to replace the current "secure fit". Secondly, the "pupil can" statements need to be reworked in order to rebalance the assessment to take account of both the creative and technical aspects of writing.

Our strong lobbying has had an impact, with the government consultation on primary assessment proposing both of these actions as soon as the 2017/18 academic year. NAHT needs members to tell us their views about these significant proposed changes. Please complete our survey to add weight to the evidence we present in our response. (Please note this survey is now closed.)

Writing proposals in the consultation

The Department for Education has listened to the extensive feedback it has received about the statutory assessment of writing. This feedback has (unsurprisingly) told them that the interim frameworks do not provide sufficient flexibility for teachers to reach judgements which are representative of pupils’ overall ability and that the assessment should take better account of creative and as well as technical aspects of writing.

The consultation recognises the limitations of the current ‘secure fit’ approach, and therefore proposes that a move to a more flexible approach which places greater weight on the judgement of teachers. This would allow teachers greater discretion in determining whether a pupil’s writing is at a particular standard overall.

There is also an acceptance that it would not be sufficient to simply move to a more flexible approach in writing, while keeping the same ‘pupil can’ statements and so the Department is working with the profession to evaluate the ‘pupil can’ statements at both key stage 1 and key stage 2.


How soon can this happen?

The Government understand that there may be some desire to move quickly on this and introduce changes for the 2017 to 2018 academic year, and they are open to considering this in light of stakeholder responses to the consultation.

In order to be prepared for the possibility of this important change taking effect for the 2017/18 academic year, if this is the response to the consultation, the Standards and Testing Agency have already started work evaluating the current interim teacher assessment frameworks.
Assessment and curriculum expert groups have been formed to discuss the issues with the current frameworks and suggest how they could be improved. Teacher panels have also been convened to input their views to the discussions, as well as a group representing school leaders and Local Authorities. Any revised frameworks would be reviewed, both by experts and an inclusion panel, before teacher trials in the Summer Term.
All of this work means that revised frameworks could be ready for use early in the Autumn term 2017. Subject to the consultation response, this could be the last year of “secure fit” and the current interim frameworks when assessing writing.

Long-term alternatives

The Government will continue to consider and explore other long-term approaches to assess writing, and intend to gather evidence on, and trial, other approaches including comparative judgement.

Comparative judgement is a way of assessing pupils' work that encourages teachers to make judgements about the overall quality and effect of pupils' writing instead of focusing on component parts. Rather than assessing writing against a pre-determined list of criteria or a rubric, teachers are presented with two pieces of writing side-by-side on screen and simply have to decide which is better. This can be done for individual pieces of writing or for portfolios of work. A score is then provided for each piece or portfolio based on the judgements that have been made.

What did the Assessment Review Group report say about comparative judgement?

The Assessment Review Group recognised that the system of national assessment of writing needs significant review. Writing should remain teacher assessed but focus on the holistic quality of a child's writing rather than the component parts.

The group considered that comparative judgement may provide a workable and valid alternative to current arrangements for teacher assessment of writing with early evidence seeming to demonstrate that it is an efficient process which can produce reliable outcomes. One particular strength is that moderation could take place between many people rather than decisions resting on just one person.

However, the group raised concerns regarding the potential for superficial judgements about children's writing and that it could become a mechanistic process. Depending on the way in which it is implemented, the introduction of comparative judgement as a national system of assessing children's writing could be seen as a reintroduction of a form of national writing test; this is something to be cautious of in light of the limitations and disadvantages of the previous incarnation of such a test.

NAHT want to make sure that we represent your views when responding to the consultation on primary assessment. Have your say in our survey. (Please note, this survey is now closed.) 

First published 14 December 2017