Assessment: why it has the ability to excite me and make me cry tears of frustration, all at the same time.


Assessment. *Shudder* Just the mention of it evokes an emotion or another in every teacher, and the chances are it will be a negative emotion. For many schools, assessment and the statistical data which it creates, have become the driving force behind everything they do. It’s the reason for many new initiatives which are put in place. The reason for employing those extra teaching assistants (of you’re lucky!) It’s the focus of every (dare I even utter the word) inspection which takes place. But many schools have lost theit way with it all. Why are we in this profession? Why do we spend all those hours creating, preparing and teaching lessons? Because of the children. Because we care about their development and want to help shape their future.

I love data. There, I said it. I do. I love data because it confirms to me what I already know. It highlights which students have made great progress and which need a bit more support. Whether you are still using levels or if you’ve moved to the magical sounding ‘life after levels’, it’s the same game, both are vital for teachers to gain a better picture of the progress and needs of their students. Am I the only one who gets excited when you see students achieving objectives which you’d never have thought they’d get to at the beginning of the year? Honestly, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing one of your students really ace that objective and you being able to triple tick it, or highlight it complete or even, here’s hoping, mastered! I love those moments. Data helps me to see how I am helping my students and that is a little bit gratifying too!

However, I was sat in a pupil progress meeting not all that long ago, where all I heard was statistics, percentages and numbers. Not once was a student mentioned by name, until I brought in that element. I let out a quiet sigh. I had prepared pages and pages of analysis (I refer back to my I love data comment here) and was so proud of what I had to share about my class and their achievements. Yet, I was never given the chance. Nor would it have registered on their radar. Why? Because more and more often, data is becoming and all consuming fire in schools and within management. Little Johnny’s progress in his multiplication facts matters little if he does not fall into a certain category of need. It was during this very meeting that I was told to ignore those children with needs and those who are falling behind age related expectations. Now it was time to focus on the middle group to push them into exceeding expectations (in order to meet our overly ambitious targets.) I was effectively being told to stop doing what I know to be the best for my students. Well. Honestly, that upset me. If this is where education is heading, then I am not sure what the future holds for it all.

I understand that there are targets schools need to aspire to. I understand that inspections inflict a great deal of pressure onto management. But I don’t understand and I don’t agree with the way that students have turned into figures.

As I begin my new job this August, I will remind myself that my students are individuals and not statistics. They are here to learn, make progress and have fun. They are human beings. I will celebrate their individual successes with them, with their parents and with my colleagues. And I vow to not be dragged into a numbers game and lose sight of what’s important here… the children.