Everything in Moderation

First year of the new style, secret squirrel operation that was Key Stage 1 SATs. I won’t go into the farces of leaks, scarcity of assessment criteria in the first half of the year,  general lack of information from the DfE and the changes of minds all the time. Will the teachers have conversations with the moderators or won’t they? Nor will I harp on about my feelings about testing 6 and 7 year olds.

We have always had very positive, supportive experiences of moderation in the past. I have been a KS1 moderator myself and tried to be as supportive as I could when moderating, whilst still having the conversations that needed to be had.

One of our teachers was pleased to be moderated so early on, the other not. My feeling was that if there were any grey area we would have time for a revisit if necessary. Also, it now means that they can get on with the rest of the summer term.

This afternoon our two moderators arrived, accompanied by our LA Assessment Advisor, who was moderating the moderators. It could have been madder as the LA is being moderated at KS1 by STA.

We had a short discussion about our own assessment and moderation systems and checked the teachers had attended pyramid and LA moderation.

They selected children from the lists provided (4 for each area, from a cohort of 40) – 1WTS, 2WAES, 1WGD in each curricular area. They told us that they would not be looking at PreKS. They observed the 4 children chosen reading with the class teacher, so children were not stressed.

At this point I left them to it. The teachers were told they could leave if they wished, but I have developed very resilient (some say stubborn) staff so they stayed the course, all 3 1/2 hours of it. Good luck to all you 2/3/4 form entry schools.

There was one child in Reading who they said should be PreKS although they recognised he was better than that but didn’t quite tick all WTS criteria.

There were 2 children who, because of their fabulous Reading Test results and other evidence from the teachers’ descriptions and their work, were deemed good enough for WGD. We hadn’t awarded them that for fear of lack of evidence anywhere else. I do think the difficulty of the text has been considered and acknowledged here.

The main problem for us was in maths for the children we have judged as WGD. After a protracted discussion, much turning of pages in books, test checks etc, etc it was deemed that there was not enough evidence. I know and the teachers know that the child in question is working at greater depth. She only dropped one mark in the maths test. The teacher has spent the year making maths meaningful, practical and engaging for the children. She has not taught to tests and this particular child is streets ahead of the rest in terms of understanding and application. She could sit next year’s Y6 times tables test now and pass. She has a passion for maths. But the evidence was not all there in her books. We took it on the chin and learned a valuable lesson. This child will have value added at KS2!!! It is an area we knew wasn’t quite there yet but feel our decision to teach maths this way was more important for our children than photographing them rolling dice or partitioning with Dienes.

It does however have huge implications for our data because it means that as this child is the most able in maths for the cohort, we cannot award any children WGD or the wrath of the Moderation Gods will descend upon us. The teachers did suggest that a revisit could be done so that further evidence could be gathered. The LA Adviser said that she felt we could not provided sufficient evidence in that time and that it has to be over a sustained period. The teacher said that she knew that but the evidence was not always suitable for putting in books, a lot is through the conversations and explanations the children give during lessons. 

The other inconsistency here is that the moderators were willing to take the reading test as strong evidence for WGD but not the maths. The problems were not enough. This is not the child’s fault, nor ours. this is the test system that is failing us. What is the point of setting a test that will not give you the evidence you need to prove that your teaching and their learning in maths has worked and that the children are performing at a greater depth. We are going to look into this. Watch this space.

Despite my best efforts (and believe me they were loud and clear), the two teachers had done a tick list against the criteria and had (with administration support and release time from class) put files together of their writing evidence (mainly so they could find them to refer to, as KS1 are notorious for losing tabs). Both teachers were praised highly for their knowledge of the children and their organisation. Goodness knows how long it would have taken if they had not done this.

All our writing TAs were agreed with. Here is where the technical, in depth knowledge of moderators comes to the fore. Many spellings….what does this look like? This has been discussed a lot in staffrooms across the land and also on Twitter, and I mean A LOT. And guess what we were told today? Many spellings is………. a lot. At least we didn’t have to count them.

Every criteria statement was checked off (or not) for all 4 children in all 3 areas.

I went back in at the end and the moderators went through the decisions. They praised the teachers, their knowledge of the children (although this is not evidence enough for a judgement to be confirmed), their organisation and their positivity. The teachers and I thanked them for being open and supportive, given what we thought was going to be “done to us”. I do feel we have been done, not by the moderators but by the Government/DfE and the children have been done a great disservice.

So now, weary but wiser (until the assessment criteria for next year is brought out) we are off to enjoy the summer term.


The text in italics is where I have gone back and added thoughts as they have come to me/us following thinking time and discussions with others.