Assessment is the holy grail of tracking
Teaching is not easy and it's made more difficult when government decides the best thing to improve standards is to change from letter grades to numbers at GCSE.
To align ourselves with these changes and give the students the best chance of success Radnor House Sevenoaks has adopted the new numbered system throughout the Lower (Y7&8) and Middle Schools (Y9-11) and reworked the tracking systems in the Prep to tie in more closely with these numbers at GCSE. Changes like this are frustrating but manageable.
As a means of tracking a child's progress Radnor uses cognitive baseline tests to provide a guide about the likely academic trajectory of a pupil over the course of a Key Stage.
When combined with termly assessments these provide parents and pupils with three data points throughout the year which help indicate whether we're broadly on track, falling behind or well ahead.
For Heads the most important part of the process is the quality of the internal assessment used to determine the termly attainment grades, if these are inaccurate the whole system falls apart very quickly.
Much is written in the educational press about teacher quality, behaviour management techniques, marking and everything in between but assessment often gets overlooked. In many ways setting good tests, giving good and timely feedback and encouraging children to act on their teacher's advice is vital if we want them to make the academic progress we expect.
Three areas should be considered when looking at assessment in schools.
Firstly, the moderation of assessments within and across departments is often ignored by schools. A grade 6 in History should broadly be comparable to a Grade 6 in English, both should identify a similar range of skills in each paper to give us confidence that we have robust data by subject from which to make decisions.
Secondly, feedback and reflection is an area which is often skipped over and students need more encouragement to focus on this important area. In my experience very few young people think about where they went wrong, how they could have prepared more effectively or which learning strategies aid memory retention best. That said, schools could do more to improve meta-cognition through the use of techniques like 'exam wrappers' following assessments plus further discussion and reflection in class to improve self-understanding.
Finally, parents also have a role to play in setting the correct culture at home, prioritising revision time and helping their child prepare for an important test.
No matter your political stance on assessment there is no avoiding GCSEs and the majority of students will go on to A-Levels and further study in later years.
There is no getting away from exams so we might as well embrace them and aim to reflect and improve year after year.