Assessment has received a great deal of attention this year, due to Covid-19 and the impact it has had on public examinations. After a rather unsatisfactory end to the 2019-2020 academic year, pupils at senior and secondary school level are now being assessed much more regularly to ensure that there is sufficient evidence to support predicted grades in GCSE’s and A Levels, should a similar situation arise again in 2021.
Assessment is an ongoing process and is based on much more than examinations. Teachers continually assess and check pupil progress in all of their lessons, monitoring what a child knows and what they still need to learn. From the moment a teacher arrives in a classroom, the learning objective is clear, though every child’s journey will be different, with each one requiring a variety of support to ensure that they reach their targets.
Teachers use formative assessment during the term to gauge how pupils are learning and provide ongoing feedback in the classroom environment. These may take the form of speaking and listening tasks, assessment weeks, self-assessment, reflections and quizzes, and are generally low key. These small steps help pupils to develop strategies and study skills, allowing them to manage their revision and preparation in advance of formal examinations.
Summative assessment takes place at regular intervals during the year, such as spelling tests or mental mathematics tests, end of topic tests and formal examinations. These allow pupils to demonstrate what they have learned and enable teachers to identify areas that need to be revisited. Teachers will often use this information to inform published gradings and report writing. These examinations provide pupils with the opportunity to show what they have learned and to practice the strategies and study skills they are starting to develop.
Standardised tests usually take place on a yearly basis and are based on verbal and non-verbal ability, mathematics, English and skills. These tests provide an indication of a pupil’s future potential and can also help to identify pupils who may need stretching further or may need additional support and interventions. This standardised data does not show pupil progress, but is an indication of where a pupil sits in terms of data gathered across the country.
The merits of regularly assessing pupils are multiple. Ongoing assessment becomes ‘normalised’ and is part of the learning cycle and classroom routines. Pupils have the chance to implement different revision strategies and challenge themselves by taking risks. This is all part of their learning journey and encourages them to become more confident, in and out of the classroom. It allows pupils to focus on individual topics and subject areas and showcase their knowledge of a particular part of the curriculum.
Regular assessment builds resilience in pupils and at the same time keeps pupils’ wellbeing as a priority. As regular assessments are more low key and often part of lessons, pupils develop confidence and a positive attitude towards them. It is important that these essential assessments are a normal part of academic learning.
Jo Desforges, Head of Academics
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