A fresh look at KS3 assessment

Inspired by Lou Enstone’s  twitter thread yesterday, I thought I would have a go at putting together some thoughts about how we are changing assessment for English at KS3, working along very similar lines, and, similarly, inspired by books such as Daisy Christodoulou’s Making Good Progress.

Since the demise of APP in 2015, we had been assessing pupil progress at KS3 using a system of inhouse mastery statements which were unwieldy and cumbersome and which parents and pupils found difficult to understand, From September, each department has been asked to come up with their own assessment system at KS3: we now have total freedom to decide what this looks like as long as it can be reported numerically on a centralized datasheet. This is used in conjunction with national cohort data to provide a predicted GCSE grade. As a department, we welcomed this, particularly as it coincided with the start of a total reevaluation of our KS3 curriculum, moving from half-termly units to units that have expanded in scope and now cover a term each.

Our first task was to decide on an assessment system that:

  • Made it possible to assess whether pupils had learned what we had taught
  • Was straightforward for teachers to use
  • Made it clear to pupils how they had been assessed and what their next steps should be
  • Made it clear to parents how their child was progressing
  • Could be applied consistently across a 12-form entry year group and three-year key stage.

We created two assessment grids to start with, one for reading and one for writing. These consist of six strands each, based on the GCSE assessment objectives but broken down in a slightly different series of steps. These are used to mark extended pieces of writing and essays and generate a mark out of fifty awarded on a best fit basis.

However, we knew that in the long term, we wanted to measure what pupils had learned in a more detailed way than could be captured by the generic assessment grid. We wanted a way of assessing factual recall, information retrieval, comprehension and inference. At this point, I was working on a completely new unit for Year 7 Autumn Term, based on the Dickens novel Oliver Twist. I decided to use this unit to trial a new format for assessment. Assessment for this unit would be out of 100 marks. This would be divided among two sections. The first section consisted of three parts: multiple choice questions to test factual recall (Part A), followed by a two more parts (B and C) made up of short answer questions covering the broader range of skills. The second section was a piece of extended essay-style writing, based around what, how, why paragraphs. For this, pupils were given some scaffolding in the form of a series of prompt questions.

I devised two different versions of the new section of the test, a practice one and the real one and decided to road test the practice version on my own Year 7 class. This threw up an issue with timing, as most pupils found it impossible to complete in the allotted hour-long lesson so I adjusted it and offered it out to the rest of the department to try. Feedback was positive and we rolled it out for real at the end of term assessment. In response to concerns about workload and consistency of marking, I also added a teacher version with model answers for the short answer questions at this point.

Our next step as a department is to develop a similar approach to assessing all our KS3 units, which have started to evolve this year from six half-termly units to three termly units per year group. We are a 12-form entry school and as teachers we have got a lot of freedom of choice in the selection of texts to teach, so much careful planning is needed to ensure consistency across each year group and the Key Stage as a whole.

For those who would like to have a look at a copy of the Oliver Twist assessment, I have attached it below. Comments and suggestions would be very welcome as we go forward with our new approach.


Oliver Twist Assessment

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