Have you ever been to a dinner party or a bar and got chatting to someone about the joy of spreadsheets? Me neither. Secretly, I actually quite enjoy a spreadsheet especially when it comes to functions in cells but I wouldn't necessarily admit to it in a social situation. No one wants to be a spreadsheet pariah after all.
Yet the collection of data is pretty integral to UK education because the adult world wants to measure and have its say over the child, to grade them and let them and their parents know exactly what their shortcomings are from an early age. No matter how it gets dressed, Emerging, Meeting and Exceeding are all labels that will transform with each child through their school life until Sats and their landscape of pressure and stress.
We seem to have no problem with the forthcoming Baseline assessments being proposed by the DFE - testing 4 year olds appears to have a level of normality about it that is quite shocking... The 1975's 'Love It If We Made It' (video here -it's first lyric is the f-word so parental advisory!) has the lyric "Modernity has failed us" and one might argue indeed it has. But while we sift through the debris of child mental ill-health and disconnection from learning, we have to provide information and show progress. That doesn't look like it will go away any time soon, the outcome of Neo-Liberalism, of measure above soul, profit above people. And yes, children are people.
So how to do so. How to do so in a way that is meaningful? In a way that enables us as practitioners to give the pound of flesh whilst at the same time have a process that is useful and actually enables children? It all comes down to Next Steps. Something so simple yet effective nonetheless.
It all comes back to The Scale, a table that lets you track starting points, progress and clearly see next steps without need for Early Years software which seem to 'control' how we see our children. I often feel these kinds of programmes push us in a direction to ticklist children. Development Matters clearly states that the statements are not a checklist and yet time and again they are presented as such. The Scale however does something different.
It puts Development Matters to one side and simply puts a progression of skills in order so that children's names can be inputted under each heading and then moved as they develop the step they are working on. You write the child's name in one colour under the heading of their current step. Then as the year progresses write it in a different colour under their new current step. You can put an Emerging, Meeting and Exceeding header above the next steps headings to show yourself where they are along the path. I type my Pupil Premium children's names in a different colour so I can see where they are more clearly. Suddenly my whole class's progression opens up to me. It's not numbers, its not percentages. It feels real and I (this is a bit sad to admit) feel connected to it. I can see who is falling behind, who is powering along.
For mathematics, I do things slightly differently since maths to my mind is less linear. I identify the range of skills then type in the children’s names who have that skill in one row and then in a row underneath the names of the children who haven’t got it. As these children’s understanding develop, I then type their names in to the top row. Again, it gives me real clarity of who has the skills rather than seeing numbers and brings me closer to my assessment.
The trick is to not rely on Development Matters but instead to turn attention to skills. Skills are what drive progress. Progress is what delivers attainment. Attainment and progress are what drive the adult world. Suddenly everyone seems happy. Suddenly there seems to be clarity. Suddenly you start to think that chatting about spreadsheets at a dinner party may not be quite so bad after all...
Below is an example of the headings one might consider for the Scale for Writing...
If you like the sound of the assessment sheet and the methodology then head to my shop page where you can download it! The shop page goes live from August :)
Can I Go Play Now..? is committed to widening the understanding of the magic of children's play as an educational tool. Child-centred, play-based learning is where it's truly at....