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Finding out what our students know now

Corinne Settle, SSAT Senior Education Lead responsible for teaching and learning and SSAT’s Embedding Formative Assessment Programme considers how catch up funding can be used effectively and shares a guide, a discussion with school leaders and some resources to help teachers and leaders find out what our children know.

There are two certainties in teaching:

  • We don’t know what they already know
  • They won’t learn what we teach them

The transition back to school and on-going remote learning for some children means that these two facts will be of greater importance than ever. As we make increased contact with students, we won’t know what they have learnt regardless of how carefully we planned and supported home-schooling.

There will be students at different ends of every possible spectrum. Those students who will have made incredible gains through their own intrinsic motivation, to those who may not have seen any educational content in many months. It is human nature to have expectations of different students, based on previous experiences of them. These are the expectations which we need to suspend. We don’t know what they now know, feel or believe about themselves. Teachers are now faced with new students, not the ones that left us in March.

Teachers are also faced with the challenge of ensuring that every child catches up on any learning missed because of time away from the classroom. Whatever we think about the way “catch up” has been talked about by politicians and press we will all be aware of the funding the government is making available to achieve these aims. Though we need no greater impetus than our direct experience of how Covid-19 has affected the children we serve, we will also be familiar with research and reports released in recent weeks which provides the impetus for the focus on catch up.

Earlier this week, Vicky Ford, Under Secretary of State for Children and Families at the Department for Education explained that ‘The £650 million ‘catch-up premium’ is to support schools to make up for lost teaching time. Our expectation is that this funding will be spent on the additional activities required to support children and young people to catch up after a period of disruption to their education.” To support settings to make best use of this funding, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) have published a COVID-19 Support Guide for Schools with evidence- based approaches to catch-up for all students. EEF suggest that schools use this document to help them direct their additional funding in the most effective way.

The guide is clear that evidence-based interventions, including those focused on tackling pupils’ behaviour or social and emotional needs in order to support them with re-engaging with school, will support pupils to catch up as they return to school. The Education Endowment Foundation have also published a further School Planning Guide for the new academic year.

The Embedding Formative Assessment programme supports teachers through a whole school strategy to embed effective formative assessment in your classrooms and across your entire school by changing your teachers’ habits and behaviour. With a five-padlock security rating from the EEF, this programme found that learners in EFA schools made the equivalent of two months’ additional progress in their Attainment 8 GCSE score.

As recommended by EEF’s Covid Support guide, this programme supports:

  • great teaching for all teachers at any stage in their career, becoming even better
  • teachers to identify and respond to students needs in lessons
  • improving high quality feedback from effective and timely assessment in lessons
  • teachers by providing techniques that can be used in lessons, small group targeted support and intervention programmes

Effective formative assessment techniques will provide useful and useable information data that tells you what pupils know, can do and what they do not yet know and cannot yet do. It will provide us with evidence about whether to reteach, recap or move on.

The guide, discussion with school leaders and resource included in this week’s Sunday supplement are all rooted in the principles of formative assessment. Use them to provide the support your teachers and leaders need to find out what your students now know.


Formative Assessment Resource
Exclusive for SSAT members, this collection of practical techniques has been assembled to help teachers ascertain where their students are in their learning.

Download guide Download resource


Watch now: Clare Taylor, Department Leader for English, Helsby High School and Senaka Galegadera, Assistant Headteacher at Kingsford Community School in conversation with Corinne Settle


One thought on “Finding out what our students know now

  1. Chay Bell on said:

    We were lucky enough to have Corinne into my school this week to do some EFA training. I purposely wrote down the line: ‘Engineer effective discussions, tasks and activities that elicit evidence of learning.’ I shared this with my SLT and with all staff in the weekly briefing. Relevant always, but never more than this month.

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