An interview with Charlotte Goodchild, Team Leader KS3 English, Wilmslow High School

Why did you decide to use

Following a the removal of KS3 levels, our school recognised that this was a golden opportunity to evaluate the way in which we mark work and assess students.  Over the course of the last 2 years, we have spent considerable time as a school wrestling with how to respond to the changes in the KS3 curriculum and the disappearance of levels. This summer, we are in a position to launch our approach, which makes a clear break between formative and summative assessment and considers the idea of ‘Fluency Learning’.

Fluency Learning, and the language we have attached to this, considers how effectively students have learnt and practised the material being taught, and is based on an assumption that, at the end of a sequence of lessons, all of our students are capable of having a ‘complete’ knowledge of the taught subject content. This means we are moving to a model which assesses the quality of a student’s learning. It no longer considers where a student has come from (their prior attainment) and where they’re heading (a GCSE target) as we have concluded that this is a very limiting approach, which means we do not have sufficiently high expectations of all of our students.
As an English team, we were therefore looking for a way in which we could summatively assess our students’ knowledge (and application) that was reliable, removed the tendency for biased judgement and was not beholden to vague criteria and rubrics; appeared to answer all of these requirements and had the added advantage of reducing the workload that English teachers often face in exam season!

What were the practicalities of using the site?

The site was easy to use and Chris was extremely helpful in supporting us through the setup process.  I would very much recommend paying for the £60 subscription if you are thinking about trialling the software with a small group.  As we boldly decided to trial this across all our KS3 classes, we ended up marking near on 1000 scripts, which is quite a large trial!  I think moving forward, we will be signing up for the £300 subscription so that we can use the barcoded answer sheets as this will reduce the admin time spent scanning in the documents etc.

What advantages and disadvantages did you find?

One of the biggest advantages is that all of our teachers have now seen over 600 pieces of student work across KS3, in the space of about 3 hours.  As a team leader, this is really quite fantastic! We have already been able to identify specific strengths and weaknesses across the cohorts and this has made for some excellent discussions about ‘closing gaps’ and strategies moving forward next year.  Of course, the fact that we are not spending hours marking is an added bonus!  My team has been very positive about the software and, in my opinion, it’s a really good form of CPD as we are all able to see the standard across the board and evaluate the effectiveness of our own teaching/students’ progress in relation to this.

What are you planning to do next?

We are going to sign up for the £300 subscription and use comparative judgement in our two KS3 summative assessment windows.

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