Advice on Action Short of Strike Action: Key Stage 2 Assessment
This briefing provides information and guidance on revised arrangements for the current academic year for the statutory assessment of writing at the end of Key Stage 2, the assessment of pupils working at level 6 and the external moderation of pupils’ work. It sets out the potential implications of these arrangements in the context of the NASUWT’s action short of strike action and it should therefore be read in conjunction with the action instructions and guidance materials published by the Union.
The briefing is relevant for members in England working in maintained schools and academies that have Key Stage 2 pupils on roll.
Arrangements for marking the Key Stage 2 English Writing Test
In July 2011, the Department for Education (DfE) confirmed that existing arrangements for the statutory assessment of writing at the end of Key Stage 2 would end. Prior to the full introduction of a system of moderated teacher assessment of writing in 2012/13, the DfE has implemented interim arrangements for the statutory assessment of writing in 2012.
The arrangements for this year require pupils’ results in writing to be determined by teacher assessment. This assessment will be ‘informed by and take account of (but not be limited by) the pupil’s result on a standard test’.
Schools were given the option to either administer the writing test at a time of their choosing and mark the tests internally or to enter pupils for the test during the normal testing period with the tests marked externally and returned to the school. Schools were required to confirm their choice by the end of November 2011.
It has become apparent that a substantial proportion of schools have elected to mark the tests internally. Given the substantial additional workload and disruption that internal marking has the potential to generate, it is essential to ensure that it is undertaken in a way that is consistent with the NASUWT’s action short of strike action instructions and guidance.
Of particular importance in this regard are the instructions relating to work/life balance. These make clear that members should not implement any policy or practice that has not been evaluated for its impact on workload and working hours. It is therefore incumbent on schools that have chosen to mark the tests internally to ensure that effective steps are taken to evaluate the potential work/life balance implications of its proposed approach to the marking of tests and to revise its plans appropriately when they would be likely to have negative implications for the workload or working hours of members.
In practical terms, this means that members should not mark completed tests if doing so would increase their overall workload or working hours. Members should note that their refusal to mark tests in such circumstances would be covered by the terms of the NASUWT’s action short of strike action.
In order to ensure that tests are marked in a way consistent with the provisions of the NASUWT’s action instructions, it will be necessary for the additional working hours required to mark the tests and record assessments in the required manner to be established. Schools will then need to make a corresponding amount of additional teacher time available to ensure that teachers’ overall working hours do not increase.
There are two potential approaches to compliance with the action instructions that schools might adopt in these circumstances. Schools may engage sufficient supply teacher cover to allow members to be released from their other duties in order to mark the tests. Alternatively, schools could arrange for the tests to be marked by supply teachers directly. Both of these strategies would be regarded as acceptable. Whatever approach is adopted, however, the key test is that overall working hours of teachers at the school do not increase.
It is important to note that it is not acceptable to release teachers to mark the tests by allocating pupils in their classes to other classes in the school. This would constitute cover and would breach the provision in the action instructions relating to members refusing to cover for absence. It would also not be acceptable for teachers to be instructed to mark the tests during their planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time. The action instructions state that members should only undertake in PPA time those planning, preparation and assessment activities that they determine are appropriate to support their timetabled lessons. The marking of statutory tests is therefore inconsistent with this instruction.
Marking of level 6 tests
The DfE has introduced voluntary tests in mathematics, reading and writing for pupils assessed to be working at National Curriculum level 6 in these subjects. As these tests are not mandatory, any decision by a school to use them would represent a school level policy or practice that would fall within the scope of the work/life balance provisions of the action short of strike action described elsewhere in this briefing.
If level 6 tests are to be used, it is important they are also evaluated for their impact on the workload and working hours of members. The approach described above for the evaluation of the workload impact of internal marking of the main writing test should be used to do this. It is also important that arrangements for marking the level 6 tests and recording the outcomes are consistent with the Union’s action instructions and guidance. The advice set out in this briefing in respect of arrangements for the marking of the writing tests should also be followed when level 6 tests are used.
Moderation of teacher assessments
As part of the interim arrangements for statutory assessment of writing, local authorities will be conducting moderation visits in a small sample of schools, including academies. The stated purpose of the moderation visits is to establish that teacher assessments are accurate and are consistent with national standards. Schools selected for moderation should be given two weeks’ advance notice of a moderator’s visit.
It is important that moderation is undertaken in ways that are consistent with the NASUWT’s action instructions and guidance. With particular regard to the work/life balance aspects of the instructions, it is critical that the potential workload implications of moderation are reviewed as soon as possible after notice of a moderation visit has been received. The key potential workload implications relate to preparation for the moderation visit and the conduct of the visit itself.
With regard to preparation, it is important to note that the DfE guidance on moderation makes clear that schools need to ensure that moderators can have access to Year 6 pupils’ exercise books and other evidence of their writing from across the year. Schools should also submit teacher assessment levels for all Year 6 pupils to their local authority immediately after notification of the visit and make sure that this list is available to the moderator during the visit.
Critically, the guidance also makes clear that there is no need to ‘create portfolios of work or prepare show-piece examples purely for a moderation visit’. It is perfectly sufficient for pupils’ work to be made available to the moderator in the form in which it kept normally. The guidance also states that ‘there is no need for schools to keep additional records justifying their teacher assessment judgements’ and that any additional information the moderator may require about teacher assessments of pupils’ work can be obtained through discussion with pupils’ teachers during the course of the visit.
It is therefore clear that members should not be required to undertake any additional work as a result of their school being selected for a moderation visit. Any attempt to require teachers to undertake additional work would not only be wholly unnecessary but would also contradict the work/life balance provisions of the action instructions.
During the visit, it is made clear in the DfE guidance that Year 6 teachers should be available to meet with moderators. It is therefore important that compliance with the action instructions is secured by ensuring that such meetings take place during the school day, do not infringe members’ entitlements to PPA time and do not involve pupils being sent to other classes to make Year 6 teachers available to meet with moderators.
The DfE guidance on moderation can be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/cg3e7nr.