Well, that is the billion dollar question. The introduction to the materials states in no uncertain terms that schools and LAs must refer to them to ensure that their TA judgements are accurate and standardised across and between schools - which actually makes sense.
Regardless of whether we believe the exemplification has been pitched at the correct level or not, we do need to make sure that the playing field is level.
To confuse matters, however, Five things you need to know about changes to Primary assessment states:
...we trust teachers, and if they are confident in making judgements against the simple ‘pupil can’ statements in the interim frameworks, they may not need to refer to the exemplification materials. The exemplification should not be seen as a restrictive template on how these judgements should be made and certainly does not require teachers to make checklists of several hundred judgements as has been wrongly claimed.
So, do you, or do you not use the exemplification material? Michael Tidd believes it’s a question of self-protection, or rather school-protection. That only by sticking rigorously to the ‘guidance’ can you be sure that your assessment will stand up to the full force of moderation. So, in spite of the DfE telling us that it’s not about box-ticking, the reality is that teachers do need some way of recording and justifying their judgements for each pupil against the statements, and tick-boxes are the simplest way of doing this.
But let’s not forget it’s only interim...
The good news is that the DfE is committed to getting it right. They have been very clear all along that the ‘expected standard’, indicated by a scaled score, will not be calculated until the first set of tests has been set. The current level of the KS2 writing exemplars (perceived by many as the equivalent of an old level 5) therefore is interim – and should not be seen as definitive. The DfE is committed to creating a longer-term framework that takes into account teacher views.
What should you do now?
Keep a cool head and remember that everyone is in the same boat. It might be practical to take a long-term view and focus on what you can do within your school to really drive writing standards - thinking about new ways to teach the basics, and developing your own subject knowledge. We’ll be writing more about this over the coming months.
In the meantime, Grammar & Spelling Bug is a great online programme for teaching SPAG, with fun games that you can do in-class or allocate for homework, to help children embed their learning.
Or you might want to take a closer look at Wordsmith - a whole-school programme for English that provides plenty of writing opportunities through the study of fantastic whole-class texts and talk for writing. Book a demo with a rep today and get a free Year 1 or Year 6 class set of our new end-of-year maths tests as a bonus.