Principal’s Blog: Distance Assessment

The question the staff often ask themselves is ‘How effective am I at what I do?’. In the same way that we continually test and monitor the young people in the school and how well they are learning, we test and monitor what the adults in the building do too. On one level this is straightforward and every class can be measured on how well it has learnt what has been taught that week. It then becomes more complex as we delve more deeply into how children learn, what teaching methods are more effective with different types of student and how we can actually assess all of that. Some of this may not seem interesting or you may feel ‘thats just your job, get on with it’, it is good to be able to explain what we are doing.

This September the government removed levels. The system which you will have grown up with of National Curriculum levels is gone. That comes with a complete change of emphasis to students ‘mastering’ the curriculum for the year group they are in now. That means that we don’t just borrow subject material from the next highest year group to extend our brightest.  Instead we make sure the knowledge, concepts, skills, understanding is completely in place. Instead of just learning about King John and his loss of the Crown Jewels in the mud of The Wash, we have to show how King John fits into the entire sweep of medieval history and how his actions are similar to those of world leaders today. It is an in depth, detailed and well understood grounding in the topic before moving onto the next topic or the next academic year. In maths this means being able to use numbers in all ways – being completely confident about balanced equations before moving onto something more complex. In the past we will have taught a topic, tested it and moved on whatever the test outcomes showed. Now we cannot move on until that topic is completely understood from all directions – and can still be remembered and be able to be tested months later, something we call ‘distance assessment’.

And this has to be accomplished without a national assessment system!

So from this September from Year 7 to Year 11 Penrice are using GCSE grades to measure progress – even in year 7! It will be progress through the grades as the child moves through the school that tells us how well our teachers are teaching – and thus how well we are doing as a school.  It is a world away from where education was ten years ago, even one year ago but it promises to deliver better learning, better lessons and a clearer system of assessment. Around Christmas time I hope to be able to give you an update on what has been achieved. You will notice that things have changed – now you know why.

David Parker, Principal