Showing posts with label Year 6. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Year 6. Show all posts

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

From The @TES Blog: Five Songs To Get Your After-SATs Party Started


Another bit of fun from me over on the TES site: https://www.tes.com/news/five-songs-get-your-after-sats-party-started

Monday, 13 May 2019

From The @TES Blog: Eyes Down, It's Time For SATs Reading Test Bingo


In what must be the article with the shortest shelf life that I've ever written I've made some tongue-in-cheek predictions for the content of the 2019 Reading SATs:

Read it here: https://www.tes.com/news/eyes-down-its-time-sats-reading-test-bingo

Friday, 16 March 2018

Comprehension Strategies And The KS2 Reading Test - What and How Should We Teach?

Comprehension Strategies And The KS2 Reading Test - What and How Should We Teach?
In my first blog post in this series I explored the difference between reading comprehension strategies and reading skills. I noted that many of the skills that are tested in the KS2 SATs also have a matching reading comprehension strategy. With the conclusion that the deliberate use of strategies develops and embeds skills, I posed a question to myself:

Is there a way to teach comprehension strategies that prepares children well for the KS2 reading test?

In answering my second question I had to consider that which is different about the reading test. Whereas the commonly-used comprehension strategies do not require children to give written answers to questions they ask or generate themselves, the test does. This is the main difference. In addition to this, the year 5/6 National Curriculum objectives mention no requirement for children to provide written answers to questions and many of the objectives aren't tested at all by the SATs. The objectives circled in red aren't tested by SATs; the ones outlined in blue are.
Without having any evidence back this up with, I believe that there are children who, having been taught strategies which have become skills, are able to complete the reading test, confidently giving written answers to the questions it asks. I suspect that these children are also able writers and they have probably had a healthy relationship with literacy in general from an early age. There is a potential argument here for a sole focus on teaching comprehension strategies and never asking children to spend time practising giving written answers to comprehension questions.

But, I also think that there are probably children for whom some explicit instruction about how to give written answers to comprehension questions will be useful and necessary (if they are to have a chance of demonstrating their reading skills in a test, which all year 6 children are). Again, I have no research evidence to back this up, only anecdotal experience. However, there is research evidence to back up the idea that particular written activities do support reading comprehension.

I turned to Steve Graham and Michael Hebert's 'Writing to Read' report which states:

"Writing-about-text activities had a positive impact on struggling students’ understanding of a text. An important key to success in using these activities with lower-achieving students was to provide them with ongoing practice and explicit instruction."

The report recommends that students do write in response to things they have read and outlines a series of recommendations of activities. One of the recommendations is that teachers should have students answer questions about a text in writing, or create and answer written questions about a text:

"Answering questions about a text can be done verbally, but there is greater benefit from performing such activities in writing. Writing answers to text questions makes them more memorable, as writing an answer provides a second form of rehearsal. This practice should further enhance the quality of students’ responses, as written answers are available for review, reevaluation, and reconstruction (Emig, 1977).

For generating or responding to questions in writing, students either answered questions about a text in writing; received practice doing so; wrote their own questions about text read; or learned how to locate main ideas in a text, generated written questions for them, and then answered them in writing. These practices had a small but consistently positive impact on improving the reading comprehension of students in grade 6–12 when compared to reading or reading instruction."

Lemov et al's 'Reading Reconsidered' also provides plenty of classroom evidence that writing supports reading comprehension. They summarise:

"...the strategic use of writing made reading and discussions of reading- the other core activities of English class—more rigorous, focused, productive and engaging- ‘better’ in short.  Writing is a deeply valuable endeavor in its own right, but it is also an endeavor that works in synergy with reading in specific ways."

From 'Writing To Read'
Activities other than answering questions include responding to a text through writing personal reactions or analyses/interpretations of the text, writing summaries of a text, taking notes on a text, and creating and/or answering questions about a text in writing. Actually, all of these activities have a greater effect size than answering questions and therefore should be explored further in the primary classroom - another blog post for another time!

What does come through both the 'Writing To Read' report and Lemov et al's 'Reading Reconsidered' chapter entitled 'Writing For Reading' is an emphasis on explicit teaching: if we want children to be able to write well about the things they read in order to develop a better understanding of what they read, we must explicitly teach these skills - they must be modelled well by the teacher.

What I have found is that evidence from both research and successful classroom practice shows that an approach to teaching reading strategies which includes giving children the opportunities to practise giving written answers to comprehension questions (in order to prepare them well for a test) is not something we should avoid, but is something that, if done right, could be beneficial to the children we teach.
From the IES guide
So, is there a way to teach comprehension strategies that prepares children well for the KS2 reading test? Yes, I think so. As long as there is modelling, discussion (book talk) and time for children to practise, a sequence of learning that will improve reading skills can (and should) focus both on teaching reading comprehension strategies (as outlined in the EEF and IES guidance) and the elements of the National Curriculum (as outlined in the content domain in the KS2 test developers' framework) as they can act reciprocally due to similarities between the skills and the strategies. Reading instruction which includes, amongst other things, teachers, asking children to respond in writing to well-written questions based on a manageable amount of text is a good idea when preparing children for KS2 tests. It shouldn't be the only element of reading instruction but it should help. Where children lack particular skills it will be best to focus modelling and practise on those particular skills.

If children are only given written comprehension activities the comprehension strategies are not likely to be employed or developed. But if the written comprehension activities are backed up with explicit teaching of the supporting strategies (as well as vocabulary, any other necessary background knowledge and how to write answers), then comprehension strategies should be developed. Such explicit teaching (including modelling and discussion) should focus on ensuring that children know what the strategy is, how it is used and why and when to use it. Children can be shown how to use the strategies when completing written comprehension activities.

The York Reading for Meaning Project assessed three reading comprehension interventions delivered by teaching assistants in 20 primary schools. The three interventions were carried out with children who had been identified as having the poor comprehender profile - the three interventions were intended to help children who struggled with reading comprehension to overcome their problems. The three interventions differed:
  • Oral Language Programme: vocabulary, reciprocal teaching with spoken language, figurative language and spoken narrative
  • Text Level Programme: metacognitive strategies, reciprocal teaching with written language, inferencing from text and written narrative
  • Combined Programme: all of the above (vocabulary, reciprocal teaching with spoken language, figurative language, spoken narrative, metacognitive strategies, reciprocal teaching with written language, inferencing from text and written narrative)
Based on the findings, the report concludes that 'the Oral Language intervention overall was the most effective of the three programmes. Theoretically, this finding provides strong support for the theory that the reading comprehension difficulties seen in those who show the poor comprehender profile are a secondary consequence of these children’s oral language weaknesses.'.

Here then is evidence that children who are struggling with reading comprehension, and are falling behind, will benefit from an oral language programme as intervention. In the context of this blog post - which focuses on teaching all children (including those are aren't struggling with comprehension but are still learning new skills and strategies) - it is worth questioning whether these research findings bear relevance - should we scrap writing as part of first teaching of reading and focus solely on an oral approach?
Examples of combined programmes from The York Reading for Meaning Project: An Overview


However, the outcomes of the project also show that 'all three interventions (Text Level, Oral Language and Combined) improved children’s reading comprehension skills'. In this blog post I have been suggesting what is essentially a combined programme for everyday classroom-based reading instruction (see the examples above). The question the research doesn't answer is, where first teaching of reading comprehension is concerned (i.e. not interventions for poor comprehenders), whether or not the benefits of writing discussed above are still outweighed by only focusing on an oral-only approach.

What is potentially telling is that 'the children who received the Combined programme experienced all components but at half the quantity of the other two intervention programmes'. What if children were given a whole quantity of both oral and written approaches? Isn't this something that a reading lesson, with an adequate amount of time given over to it, could offer children that an intervention (in this study set at 30 minutes long) could not?

It would be interesting to know which approach (oral, text or combined) shows the best results for all learners rather than interventions for poor comprehenders . For teachers working on helping children to be prepared for KS2 testing it would be good to see research which focuses on first teaching for all learners where the results are taken from SATs performance. Whether you are in support of year 6 testing or not, they are currently a feature of the UK's education system. In order for children to feel prepared (and hopefully not stressed by uncertainty about the tests) and in order for schools to demonstrate accurately the reading ability of their children, most schools will want to allow children to practise giving written answers to comprehension questions. Would it be too much of a gamble in this case for schools to take an oral-only approach?

Expanding on some of the ideas in this blog post, in previous blog posts I have written about...

Monday, 3 July 2017

To My Brilliant Year Six Teachers

To my brilliant year six teachers,

Thank you and well done for all your incredibly hard work this year. I could not have asked for more commitment and dedication to the children of our school. They have received top-notch teaching and a highly-tailored curriculum this year - you have thought of each and every one, assessing their needs and then working on them meticulously to help them to make, in so many cases, very rapid progress.

You have had the highest of expectations for all the children in your care and have not let anyone get away with anything sub-standard. At the time, that might make you feel like an ogre, but, it is absolutely necessary in ensuring that the children have the best possible chance of present and future success.

It has been so encouraging to see how you have worked together, trying out new things and analysing their success. You have really made every effort to be excellent teachers - and it has paid off. Your self-reflectiveness and your desire to always better yourself has been an absolute gift, both to me as your leader and to the children.

And so, whatever the 2017 KS2 tests results say, I stand with you and support you. Should they be good, we will celebrate. Should they be disappointing, we will look for and celebrate the successes that are sure to be there. And we will optimistically plan for the future, resolutely seeking ways to better our practice from this year. 

Yes, I am now speaking about 'we' and not 'you' because, although your personal commitment is independently commendable, we are a team and we did this together. This is not a case of 'you', it is 'us' - that 'us' includes all the school's leaders and every other member of staff who has touched the lives of our outgoing year sixes. We did this together and we will stand together.

Thank you though for all the times you felt you were on your own, but you kept on going anyway - you truly do put the children at the centre of all you do.

When those results come in, think not of them as the only measure of each child's achievements, no matter how well they have done. They do not measure all the things that you have told me, and that I have seen, throughout the year: the small wins and the big successes. That child who was working on year two objectives who can now successfully demonstrate understanding of many year six objectives. That child who only started with us this year, having not been in school for a good while. That child who has discovered a love of reading, of writing, of maths, of history, of Shakespeare. That child who now speaks up in class. All those children who are raring to go to secondary school, confident that they are learners and that they will be successful as long as they hold high expectations for themselves. You did that. 

They might not thank you for it. But I do. And in years to come they will look back and remember all that you have done and they will wish that they had thanked you. 

But I know you don't do it for the thanks. You do it because you care. There is not enough thanks to cover that.

A vast understatement to finish, because anything attempting to sum it up would sound far too hyperbolic and platitudinous: this has been a great year and you should be proud of what you have achieved with the children.

This was re-blogged on the TES site: https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/sats-year-6-teachers-results-day-there-arent-enough-words-say-thank

Monday, 26 June 2017

From the @TES Blog: Primary and Secondary Teachers Need Each Other — And We Need To Start Viewing Each Other In A More Positive Light

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/primary-and-secondary-teachers-need-each-other-and-we-need-start

Transition time is fast approaching, and along with it the inevitable discussions about how we can make the move from primary to secondary school smoother for pupils.

Unfortunately, no amount of tutor visits or collaborative projects between key stage 2 and 3 teachers will really bridge the chasm that exists between these two stages.

Attempts to help children cross the threshold are important, and should be continued, but without a more joined-up approach in curriculum and assessment our efforts will never be able to ensure that the learning journey of each child is seamless. For that we need systemic change — something that may not be in our power to effect.

What we do have the power to change, though, is our view of each other.

Click here to read on

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Collection of PowerPoints to Introduce the 2019 KS2 SATs Tests (with Emojis!)

I have put together some light-hearted, potentially humorous, but hopefully informative PowerPoints to use with year 6 children either during the run-up to SATs or on the mornings before the tests.

They use questions from the 2016 KS2 test to remind children of test techniques and tips that will help them to do their best on the day.

Reasoning: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/powerpoint-to-introduce-the-2017-ks2-sats-mathematics-reasoning-test-papers-2-and-3-with-emojis-11595567

Arithmetic: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/powerpoint-to-introduce-the-2017-ks2-sats-arithmetic-test-paper-1-with-emojis-11594343

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/powerpoint-to-introduce-the-2017-ks2-sats-spelling-punctuation-and-grammar-test-with-emojis-11593369

Reading: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/powerpoint-to-introduce-the-2017-ks2-sats-reading-test-with-emojis-11589341

Some reviews:

"All the things I say over and over again but with the added bonus of emojis. Maybe this will embed the message just that little more! Fingers crossed. Thanks for sharing."

"Excellent overview of the new SATS - thank you!"

"Thank you its just what I need for the final push."

"Good fun: will make my class smile and remember some of those important things they might forget when exam nerves set in. Thank you for sharing!"

"A wonderfully lighthearted PowerPoint to alleviate the concerns of any Y6 pupils anticipating the reading paper. Straight-to-the-point and precise, with smiley faces to boot. Cheers for pulling it together - may the force be with them."

"Have downloaded all these! Made me chuckle but gets the point across. It's also reassuring to know that all the little niggles I had with these tests, children are doing all over the country! TICK ONE BOX!!!!!!! AARGGH!"

Year 6 Teachers, You've Got This! Your 5-Step Game Plan for SATs Week 2017


The latest in my series of blog posts for Third Space Learning focuses on SATs week itself. The focus is on teacher and pupil wellbeing and provides 5 steps to take to ensure year 6 teachers and pupils aren't too frazzled by the end of it.

So, the time has come. SATs week 2017 is upon us. On Monday morning, after months (hopefully years) of preparation, the nation's Year 6 children will sit down to the first of 2017's Key Stage 2 National Assessments.

Year 6 teachers across the land will be pacing halls and classrooms, catching glimpses of questions and hoping beyond hope that the primary school children in their classes will do their very best.

And I assume you're probably one of those teachers, or a supportive Head or SLT member.

You'll be feeling a heady mix of excitement and nervousness while anticipating the children’s chance to show off all they've learned. You might also be wondering what on earth the test-writers have come up with this time.

Click here to read on over at the Third Space Learning blog: http://thirdspacelearning.com/blog/2017/year-6-teachers-you-ve-got-this-your-5-step-game-plan-for-2017-ks2-sats

Monday, 17 April 2017

Preparing For SATs: Advice For Year 6 Teachers (Part 2)

You might question whether or not I'm a legitimate 'wellbeing expert' but regardless of that I hope you find enough helpful advice on my latest blog post for Third Space Learning.

It's the second in a four-part series focusing on year 6 and SATs. In this week's article I focus in on the two or three weeks after the Easter holidays and look at what's best avoided and what should be prioritised.

Even if you're not a year 6 teacher you probably know someone who is so please consider sharing this link with them.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Preparing For SATs: Advice For Year 6 Teachers

If you're a Year 6 teacher this Easter, you definitely don't need me to wax lyrical about the pressure you're feeling right now. Teachers up and down the country are, in their own way, stepping up their preparations for that one week in May that so much of their year seems to have been geared towards. Instead, I’d like to offer some advice from my own practice.

Year 6 teacher, click here for my top 5 tips on how to preserve your sanity over the next few weeks!

Whole blog post hosted at the Third Space Learning blog.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

SATs Results - My Experience and an Optimistic Response

I'm not a stranger to SATs result day nightmares (read about it here), and if it wasn't for my past experiences I dare say today would have been a different experience for me. Our SATs results this year are alarmingly low, not approaching anywhere near the national picture.

We were expecting it really. Under two years ago, our school was placed in special measures and subsequently academised as a result (read a bit more background here). Whilst the academisation has brought about many changes it would seem that there is only so much underachievement, bad behaviour and poor attitude to learning that can be tackled in a short space of time. This year's year 6 cohort have suffered in a school that previously had low expectations and inadequate teaching, along with a whole host of other issues (really, there are many!). We have a large number of SEND children, many on the register due to behavioural needs, who have not had their needs catered to in the past. We knew we'd take a hit.

Coupled with all the changes to primary assessment arrangements this year, we were under no illusions: children who had been taught very little for years and then had been taught a new curriculum for less than two years had a long way to catch up, especially when they had to meet two sets of criteria (the NC objectives and the interim framework objectives) and sit new and more rigorous tests. The word omnishambles has been used to describe the government's operations within education this year; it's not a bad way to describe it. We knew what was coming our way.     

Despite being saddened by what has befallen these particular children, my natural optimism kept on fighting me. After calculating our dire percentages I looked for all those who nearly made the magic 100 mark - there were so many. Then I looked at all who had achieved 100 or over and felt proud of their achievements. I scrutinised the spelling and arithmetic test results and found great successes there. Comparing our SATs scores to our teacher assessment data I found that we had been very accurate in our judgments: even where we had said EXS and a child hadn't achieved the pass mark, they were always very close. This led me to the conclusion that if the SATs results tallied well with our teacher assessment (so, for example, a child with 98/99 scaled score who has been assessed as Year 6 developing) then the phenomenal progress our children have made this year (as shown by our in-house data tracking system) is something worth celebrating.

Yes, I briefly went though the feelings of self-doubt (Did I do enough? Could I have done it better? Is it all my fault?) and my mind has been full of things to try differently next year, but I remain optimistic (perhaps you think I shouldn't). I know that my team and I have done a great job this year - the progress proves it, as do many observations, book scrutinies, pupil progress meetings and external reviews (my phase working at 'Good' 18 months after the school received its 'Inadequate' Ofsted judgement). I know that the kids have worked incredibly hard; they're exhausted, bursting with new skills and abilities and actually, their conduct and learning behaviour has steadily improved - even acknowledged just last week by our MAT's executive principal. These are children who really have learnt so many things that the tests just can't test - we have set them in much better stead for their high schools, and indeed for the rest of their lives. And did I mention that their progress has been ridiculously phenomenal?!

I don't know if you can find the silver linings in your results, but I would urge you to try. There are schools out there who have done exceptionally well his year despite the changes - I intend not to resent them, only to learn from them; for the sake of the children I'm willing to humbly take any advice going and I hope you are too. Perhaps you just need to cling to the fact that our government ministers have stated that these results are non-comparative and that Ofsted should not pay much heed to them (read more about that here).

I know there will be some teachers out there who feel terribly unsupported by their school today, and I sympathise with you - perhaps next year is the time to try to move one to somewhere with leaders who care a bit more or perhaps you need to fight your corner and present the case for why results were low (there is plenty of universal evidence out there). There is definitely a time for mourning too - I'm definitely not saying suck it up and get on with it. 

And I still think we need to be optimistic about the future; maybe next year will be more settled. We'll know the curriculum better and we'll know the height of the expectations (let's face it, that sample reading paper really didn't prepare us for the hardcore-ness of the actual one). I also know I'll be receiving a much more settled year group next year - a group who've also had one more year of new curriculum teaching - that's got to count for something, right? 

If you've experienced poor results then you're not alone - please get in touch, even if just to offload - I really don't claim to have all the answers but am an open (and anonymous) ear.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

I Thought I'd Lose My Job.

A few years ago I really thought my career had come to an end. It was definitely an overreaction but for a few days I had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach 24/7. In my more rational moments I was sure that at least my being trusted to work in year 6 was over.

It was July and my first set of SATs results had come through. I'd been teaching a really high-achieving and compliant (if not a little boring) year group in what might be considered a leafy-lane school. They'd worked well and had aced practice tests. But the results arrived and calculations were made and there were disappointments. Enough disappointments for it to be a problem.

I went into overdrive: worrying, gathering evidence, mentally phrasing and re-rephrasing my defence. I met with the senior leaders and with my partner teacher and the School Improvement Officer was drafted in for a special meeting. Nothing else occupied my mind; I sat glued to my computer compiling page after page of reports based on the year's data (which thankfully I'd kept a good record of). I only remember one moment of peace: I'd cycled home and, in an attempt to clear my head, I lay in my garden listening to a favourite album from my youth: Kula Shaker's 'K'. 'Hey Dude' still reminds me of that time.

"Smell the rose, the sweet, sweet rose,
Catch the sun, find where it grows,
Smell the rose, the sweet, sweet rose,
That grows on castle walls in heaven."

Things were not smelling of roses and my experience did not seem like anything approaching heaven.

In short, the finger was pointing squarely at me. Well-meaning leaders tried to attribute the perceived failure to some difficult family circumstances I'd had that year. The problem was that they had all occurred after the SATs - they were clutching at straws, perhaps because they didn't want to say I was a bad teacher. They couldn't say that anyway as they had no evidence from their own monitoring that would suggest it were true. My carefully collected (and subsequently curated) practice papers and assessment grids were proof that there were no real issues in the achievement and progress throughout the year. I'd been successfully observed, my books had been scrutinised and there had been no issues with my data; pupil progress meetings had gone well and I always followed through with any interventions or changes that were suggested.

All this made it worse because it was so hard to put a finger on what had gone wrong. I doubted myself but at the same time was the only one being proactive about explaining the differences in the data. My confidence was shot yet I had to repeatedly defend myself, having to appear confident in what I had been doing for the year. 

In the end we put it down to an increase in challenge in the tests - these were the 2013 tests, the first year of the SPAG tests and the first time we began to see Tory ideals creeping in (inclusion of an excerpt from classic literature). Many perceived the tests to have already begun moving towards assessing principles from the incoming National Curriculum.

The agony I felt was prolonged until I'd been told which year group I'd be teaching the following year. I knew there was deliberation. I wanted out because I didn't want that pressure again - and my confidence had taken a severe blow. I wanted in because being ousted would have been proof (in my mind) that they thought I was incapable. In the end I was asked to teach year 6 again - that was probably the best outcome. And I've never taught another year group since.

The following year we had a visit from Ofsted. The previous year's data (which I'd had sleepless nights over- not to mention the terrifying days) did not stop the school from getting 'Good' overall (with two areas of 'Outstanding'). I was observed twice - SLT directed the inspectors back to me on the second day so they could see my cross-curricular use of ICT. An SLT member and an inspector told me there were no points for improvement in my lesson. It was noted in the inspection report that provision for reading (the test in which we'd suffered most) was 'Outstanding' - I'd led on reading for a year and a half. I'd already secured my current job by that point - assistant head at another school. The School Improvement Officer conducted a book scrutiny and affirmed that from what she'd seen in my books I'd make a good Maths leader in my next school. Those awful few days from the year before were long forgotten. We had a successful set of SATs results through that July. All was well. 

And I've learned something from all that; something I'd like my readers to learn too. There's probably a cleverly-worded, pithy quote somewhere which will better express this next point, but here it is in my own words: the things we worry about rarely have any lasting impact. A month, term, year down the line they are all but forgotten. Now, whenever I'm worrying about something work-related, the memory of this event reminds me that it probably won't have any lasting consequences. I do all I can to make things right and then let it go - it's a very freeing way to be but if it wasn't for the described event I wouldn't have learnt that lesson. 

Although at the time I was certain I'd lose my position as year 6 teacher, or even my job entirely, I didn't. Even though I worried that it'd harm my chances of procuring a leadership role, it didn't. All that you are most afraid of may never came to fruition - don't worry unnecessarily. Don't allow your fears to limit your potential. That thing you're living in fear of? It'll probably never happen. 

At least, that's how I see it.

"Smell the rose, the sweet, sweet rose,
Catch the sun, find where it grows,
Smell the rose, the sweet, sweet rose,
That grows on castle walls in heaven."

PostScript: It must be said that throughout this whole experience my wife constantly reminded me of what I ended up learning for myself. She reminded me too of the comparative insignificance of the event and of the principle laid out in Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him". Her support was, and is, invaluable to me.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

A Year 6 Teacher's Vows

 I do solemnly declare that I, your year 6 teacher, shall not pressurise you, my year 6 pupils, during the run up to the SATs. From this day forward, until lunchtime on May 12th, and indeed thereafter, I shall not subject you to emotional torture and shall protect you (to the best of my ability) from the ills of Key Stage 2 testing.

I promise that I will strive to keep you stimulated and engaged, even as together we learn the difference between coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. I will be a good teacher, for better, for worse, and I shall not continually mention that the SATs are coming up. Instead I will endeavour to prepare you for the rest of your lives until we are parted by the spring bank holiday, and eventually the six weeks holiday.

I pledge that I will respect, trust, help, and care for you, remembering that after all, you are fragile people with real emotions. I will persevere with you, in sickness and in health, not only to secure for you academic success but emotional wellbeing, social ability and general well-roundedness.

And when July comes, I promise to reassure you, in joy and in sorrow, that I, your year 6 teacher, believe that you, my year 6 pupils, really do have qualities that the test could not test. I will be your champion, reminding you that you have the capacity to succeed in a myriad of different ways as you express your own unique personalities and skill-sets. And as the last day of school rolls around, and we are rent asunder, I will wave you off, confident that your sanity and happiness remains intact as you look forward to blissful weeks of summer.

This is my solemn vow.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Yo-Yo Pricing: The New Revised Deadline


Year 2 and 6 teachers - today we all became victims of 'Yo-Yo Pricing'.

The biggest education news in the last 24 hours is of course Nick Gibb's confirmation that "the department would listen to the concerns raised by the sector regarding the deadlines for this year’s assessments at key stage 1 and 2...". The department's response? They have introduced "a new revised deadline of 30 June for both."  

'Yo-Yo Pricing' is a standard trick in the aisles of this country's supermarkets. Here's a definition of it: A product is sold at an inflated price for a limited period at low volume in just a few stores, then rolled out across all stores at the lower price. So, a pack of hot cross buns (let's keep this seasonal) is emblazoned with a '50p off' sticker, suggesting great value for money, and we all buy two packets because they're such a bargain. What we don't know is that's actually just the normal intended price and that for a week, at the back of a handful of stores, they were selling hot cross buns (out of season) for 50p more than the 'new price'. It's a great swizz.

 And so is the "new revised deadline". Let's cast our minds back, ooh, say, a year? When was the old un-revised deadline? 26th June. And all of a sudden, with a bit of yo-yo pricing, low and behold, the new revised deadline is 30th June. Yes, it came via 27th May, but that's the equivalent of the product which is sold at an inflated price for a limited period at low volumes in just a few stores, isn't it? They've not conceded anything. It's just gone back to how it was before. It smacks of being a pre-meditated political bargaining chip. Maybe the conversation went like this:

DfE bod 1: We know they'll complain, and unions will probably make ultimatums, so let's make sure we've got something we are happy to change to show that we're listening to them.
DfE bod 2: How about we pretend that we're changing the teacher assessment data deadline and then when they do complain, we can just put it back to when it used to be?
DfE bod 1: Good idea. Was that minuted? We'll just wait until the unions wade in before we action it though, OK?
DfE bod 2: Sorted. Once we've 'relented' on that they've not got a leg to stand on, have they? They won't be able to say we didn't listen.

Maybe I'm being too skeptical. Maybe the DfE will make more revisions to their proposals but as it stands, I'm not going to be dazzled by today's display of apparent concern and acquiescence. Maybe it wasn't even as intentional as I imagine, but make no mistake: this is yo-yo pricing. Yes, I'm glad that, just like all the years before now, we'll have another month of teaching and assessment time before we have to submit teacher assessment data, but since when has the status quo been anything to write home about?

Really all we're ending up with is this:


Main Photo Credit: hz536n/George Thomas via Compfight cc