School Data Pressures
Value added and progress measures are becoming more prevalent data pressures have become ever more important. Constant judgements are given by teachers, every term or more likely every half term to see where the children are at. Talk about whiplash for teachers. Largely most teachers I know have the heads buried in data - why because it is tied to performance management and making the next pay threshold. What's wrong with that you may ask? Well nothing in the sense of sensible data to plan relevant tailored learning experiences combined with a tough rigorous pay system that rewards progress and achievement is good overall. But no one is on a level playing field and many people are on the receiving end of others. Year 2 and Year 6 are completely on the receiving end, with very little places to go. This is especially for Year 6 which are tested at the age 11 and what they get is what the get - no teaching judgement required apart from writing. Foundation Stage and Year 2 can if they want to override their data to look exceptional but this presents a snowball effect throughout the school. Year 1, Year 3, Year 4 and Year 5 have cart blanche with whatever school system they assess on. Little testing and no exemplar is available for these years to accurately determine the children's attainment. I'll outline an example below:
Say a Year 3 teacher is given the performance management target of ensuring more middle attainers become higher attainers in order to achieve their next increment. Then, lets say this teachers goes hell for leather trying to achieve this. Now, as this teacher is a human being and not infallible, lets say they are an NQT and have their first child but their target is not being met. A situation now arises - I need more money for my life but my class are not playing ball and cannot meet this target in some areas. How tempting a situation this is!
A chain reaction begins...
1. No one really understands the school assessment system as its new, its not national and how can you be proven wrong - I'll just move them up a step or even a couple. No harm no foul!
2. A meeting ensues - the teacher maybe challenged and like any colleague is treated with respect and their judgement is accepted - probably even applauded!
3. Next year comes the year 3 teacher has their increment and a new class. Yay!
4. Year 4 teacher is given a similar task with lower attainer meeting middle attainment, yet finds they are having to back fill knowledge and skills the children should know.
5. But wait Year 4 teacher needs their increment of pay they have 3 mouths to feed at home. Those original children now higher attainers need to at least need to meet expected progress.
6. Those children who are lower attainers are moved higher and now are middle attainers and why? Because they must meet the standards or surpass the gauntlet set down by the previous teacher.
7. Year 5 teacher does exactly the same.
8. Year 6 teacher now has a class that have stunning attainment from their previous years curriculum yet none can actually do so - result SATs ultimately undos the children and Year 6 teacher is bereft of success and money.
Now obviously I'm engaging in hyperbole but, I have seen this happen again and again. Well you might argue management should be picking up this. Well they are! But between the increased load of thousands of other requirements and quite frankly scary level of social work they take on, time is at a premium. Trips, British Values, looking for terrorists, extra whole school events, safeguarding, new school initiatives, data sifting, parent complaints and covering staff all take up a dizzying amount of time. But without which Ofsted would deem the school as not meeting the grade.
This stands for Interim Teacher Assessment Framework. Essentially a list of bullet point markers which bares close resemblance to the curriculum however, doesn't always quite match. Some points are particularly detrimental as they may hold a child back from really what they can do. The tight fit model, a move away from the best fit model used at Foundation Stage, unnecessarily impedes children's real attainment. For example, if a high attaining writer shows all the requisite qualities of being at greater depth but cannot join handwriting they cannot be awarded the GD standard. Whether they are able to actually join their handwriting due to fine motor skills development that will only develop over time is thus irrelevant. They have failed!
What I find extremely alarming is the back door privatisation of the data industry surrounding schools. A whole host of data companies such as target tracker and pupil asset have sprung up to provide sometimes excellent, and sometimes dismal services. Furthermore, no system is transferable to another school: meaning if another child came from another school, it would be very hard to ascertain where that child fit in terms of attainment, progress and historical data. A whole dizzying host of academic vocabulary has sprung up like exceeding, excelling, secure, greater depth, mastering, secure+ etc, all meaning different and the same things. Who knows?! Then into the mix comes point in time assessment... A totally different way of assessing children such a 4, 5 or 6 is expected. With behaviour and progress vocabulary of equal array of vocabulary, who knows? And that really is the question who knows? Certainly not the parents...Certainly not the next school...Certainly not the teachers. All this is designed not really for the benefit of the children, but for the benefit of Ofsted to prove however disastrous your results maybe, little Jimmy the disadvantaged child is diffusing the difference because he's a 4 at this point in time!