On the contrary, Transition has never been more exciting. Of course some form of standardised data will be helpful for target setting and the future of Progress 8 but who is that all for? Is it the children? I don’t think it is! I may be a little controversial here but I honestly don’t care. For far too long we have put glass ceilings of targets on pupils potential. A target of a 7 (or for some poor souls a 1 or a 2) simply says, that’s as good as it gets for you! Good teachers will argue that that is not the intention but it is all too often the perception. Of course there are schools out there that do not share targets with pupils, while from one perspective this helps the issues raised above, but our unconscious bias still has us teaching to that grade. No doubt this is a subject that could be written about far more extensively, for the purpose of this post however, it is simply for perspective.
So lets start with setting that target that schools like, but if we have to set them let them be 9’s, for all pupils! It doesn’t need to be a stick to beat children and staff with, more a motivational tool. The trust and belief leaders have in both children and teachers is more powerful than you can imagine. Not meeting the target of 9 is not the end of the world, but as the saying goes, if you aim for the moon you may well reach the stars! With no statutory ‘hard’ data for us to use to suggest that the target is unattainable, who are we to argue that it is! Of course this is a point I would have argued previously but this year there is no evidence for people to use to ‘throw back’ at me! There is also a strength in numbers, pupils are all put on a level playing field and so don’t need to feel that they have been put on some sort of pedestal by being given higher grades than their peers or vice versa as both can be damaging as a perception.
In years gone by, most data passed from primary to secondary school has been used to set groups, according to prior attainment, in order to teach to those targets set. However this has been shaped or disguised, we have to have to admit that traditionally, this is the way most transition data has evolved. I make no commentary on the positive or negative connotations, simply stating a fact, and I am well aware that there is an awful lot more to this period (as I would be!) and many many schools up and down the country do a fantastic job and that transition is far more than data collection! As with anything there are good and bad ways of working and as this post is focused on the removal of formal, centrally reported assessment and what we can do about this. It is not designed to criticise current practice, I know we all want what is best for our children but hopefully it will raise some questions and provoke some thoughtful discussions in schools.
This year HAS to be different, and I for one think this is really exciting. It gives us the chance, as educators, to work towards a common goal: to remove the glass ceiling of targets or at least to put children on a level playing field, to find new ways of working with the curriculum and hopefully work more collaboratively than ever before across phases. If you have read any of my other posts I have talked about the importance of understanding the curriculum that either precedes or follows the one you work in. The children experience both, so surely we as the adults in control should have some knowledge of it! Having an understanding of what has been (especially I think in years 3 and 4 which are the years children can find easier to forget) and what will be taught is by far the best and easiest way to ensure successful curriculum Transition.
I am very wary of putting my next statement on paper as we know how fast things can change but I am taking a chance! As we know the government guidance/suggestion is to use past sat’s papers for KS2 staff to report to parents. My plea here! If you do this, and I am not arguing against it, but if you do, PLEASE, don’t only pass the scores on the doors to the secondary school, but also let them know which paper you used. Without the usual option of using the Question Level Analysis to identify gaps in knowledge or understanding having a score alone will be of minimal impact if we are aiming to avoid the (potentially) inevitable baselines. If it is not asked for, send it anyway! At least with an understanding of the papers taken, secondary schools can use these to truly identify gaps in learning. Secondary schools PLEASE do not baseline based on the fact that you have no idea where the data came from! If you have a copy of the sat’s paper used you can easily use low stakes quizzing in the first couple of weeks to identify gaps and maybe even set the groups! If the school does not send this information, ask for it! Low stakes quizzing in the first couple of weeks and then setting based on gaps in understanding not prior attainment! Told you this year was exciting!
Another fantastic way of ensuring a smooth transition without statutory testing is to ask for/send some examples of work from one phase to the other. This does not mean whole books, interesting as they are there is simply not time to make quality use of them. A good example of the pupils true (independently completed) work is of great help to schools. If possible make 1 piece of work available for each curriculum area (and make sure the children understand what subject it is!). Research has shown me that year 6 pupils produce some fabulous work when the work taught by the teacher they currently trust implicitly but they know it will be seen and used by staff they are hoping to impress when they reach their next stage. There are already some brilliantly innovative projects such as this happening up and down the country, this year though we can really develop the use of this work. It can become so much more than an example of good practice for the child. It can become the baseline that so many schools crave! Use the writing/example of subject knowledge to gauge the pupils current understanding and use this as a springboard for development. Expecting the first piece of work in secondary to be anywhere near as good as some of the final pieces of work in primary is simply delusional, and so using that first piece of work to be your baseline is grossly unfair on the child! Example of pupils work, completed with confidence being the starting point for curriculum development! Told you this year was exciting!
Hopefully this post has shown that children moving between phases do not need numbers attached to them for year 7 (and beyond) teaching to be successful. If we assume that the Key Stage 2 curriculum has been taught, we have our starting point. If we really consider the 6 years of quality teaching that the pupils have already experienced and have an understanding of what that curriculum was, we have our starting point. If we prepare the children for what they can expect in the secondary school curriculum, they have their starting point. Give all children the same level of quality teaching and using some of the ideas I have suggested here, I promise you you will see them succeed. Allow them to reach for the moon, they will at least reach the stars!