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Less data, more information…

Colin LoganColin Logan, Head of Data and Accountability SSAT, writes…

It’s not what you’ve got (past results), but what you’re doing with it that Ofsted will now be focusing on.

The new-style Ofsted inspections will be getting underway later this month. Changes in the framework have been widely shared – but there are some implications for assessment and data that might not be so widely appreciated at this stage.

Changes in the way data is used will have particular significance for school leaders. Gone is the pre-occupation with historic data. What appears in last year’s RAISEonline will be a starting point for the lead inspector’s initial preparation, but only that.

What appears in last year’s RAISEonline will be a starting point for the lead inspector’s initial preparation, but only that

Obviously the past cannot be ignored, but it’s now a question of what the school is doling about it. The new guidelines to inspectors are clear: not only will most weight be given to progress but the achievement of current students in the school will carry the most weight of all.

the achievement of current students in the school will carry the most weight of all

Ordinarily, that might have been simply great news for schools.

What might make it something of a double-edged sword right now, however, is the current context. Year 11 students completing old style GCSEs shouldn’t be too much of a problem if staff already have a reputation for making accurate assessments and predictions.

Year 10 could be trickier. How confident are teachers with the demands and criteria for the reformed GCSEs in English and maths? And then there is key stage 3: that is undoubtedly where Ofsted will be focusing a good deal of attention, given its recent report ‘KS3 – the wasted years?’.

Ofsted is clear that inspectors will not expect to see any particular assessment system in place following the removal of national curriculum levels. They will also recognise that most schools will be in the process of developing their new approach.

Levels haven’t been banned: but schools will have to be able to show that they have ‘a robust means of gathering information about current pupils and monitoring their progress, presented in a comprehensible way’.

Inspectors have been told that they must not ask for any particular cuts of data, or for data to be presented in any particular way. Schools should not be producing documentation just for Ofsted.

Inspectors . . . must not ask for any particular cuts of data, or for data to be presented in any particular way

That does, however, put the onus on school leaders to make sure that their everyday tracking and analyses are capable of providing the evidence that inspectors will need, for them to be able to judge provision as good or outstanding.

Inspectors should now be looking at information about a school’s approach to assessment rather than traditional data:

  • How does a school’s assessment practice reflect its curriculum?
  • How has it been developed?
  • How does it support good teaching and learning and students’ progression through the key stage?
  • And how is this information used by school leaders?

SSAT’s soon-to-be-released training resource Curriculum and assessment – Inset in a box will help school leaders to develop their own thinking. They should work with their staff to get back to a principled approach to curriculum and assessment design, instead of being forced to follow an imposed system.

We now have a great opportunity to use our autonomy (which doesn’t mean not collaborating with others) to make assessment the tool rather than the master. And to make sure that data means information.


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