Top tips

Kieran’s top ten tips – how to use assessment to reduce teacher workload

  • Be clear what assessment is for – good assessment is intended to give usable information to a classroom teacher to enable them to improve teaching and learning. If the purpose isn’t clear, or if it doesn’t benefit students and teachers, it just adds to workload
  • Be precise about what type of assessment it is – ‘assessment’ is a very imprecise term. Do you mean formative assessment, summative, evaluative, or ipsative? Each has a role to play but not every assessment is appropriate for every setting
  • Be empowering – teachers work best when they are allowed to be the creative professionals they are. If all your assessment does is tick external accountability boxes, don’t be surprised if your colleagues don’t buy into it
  • Be focussed – less is more, so don’t over assess. Guidance from the DfE and Ofsted suggests that one data collection point a term is generally sufficient
  • Plan in advance – get a year ahead if you can, then the information gathered can be more effectively managed. Assess at the end of the academic year for the next, alert colleagues and parents well in advance, manage assessments carefully between subjects
  • Share data with colleagues – it’s important your colleagues constantly have access to live data if you want them to get the most out of it and to inform their practice
  • Share data with parents – parents naturally want to know how their children are doing. But too much detail can be confusing and data in isolation isn’t informative. Aim for a happy medium
  • Be upfront – explain to students why you’re assessing them and what you are looking for. Students have to know why they are doing things if they are going to be motivated to do them. That is as true of assessment as it is for everything else
  • Be ambitious – don’t use data solely with exams in mind. Use it to build up a complete picture of a child – their social interactions, behaviours, extra-curricular activity – as well as their academic potential, and over the course of their entire school career
  • Be honest – putting in place good assessment takes time and there are limitations. The best data isn’t a substitute for professional judgment. It can enhance, inform, focus and target appropriate interventions but it is designed to complement teacher judgement not replace it

Top (non-assessment) tips for reducing workload

  • Cut the working day – Kieran sliced 20 minutes off the end of the school day – classes finish at 3pm
  • Invest in teacher health – the school now has a full-time wellbeing lead for teachers and offers staff regular health checks
  • Use Inset days judiciously – they are spread throughout the year and no longer feature many outside consultants
  • Share best practice – lesson plans are worked on collaboratively and peer observations are encouraged
  • Harness parent power – most parents want to help but don’t know how to. But if schools communicate clearly and explain what is needed, parents can play a part in targeted interventions like quizzes, for example

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