David Cook is the Lead Mathematics Adviser for the HfL Primary Mathematics Team

A lot has happened since the start of the year! In the last three months, we have seen the production of a set of criteria to use as an interim teacher assessment framework (we have been referring to these as ITAFs) at the end of both years 2 and 6; exemplification materials to support these; and a wave of response from a variety of sources. You may well have missed the letter from the NAHT to the DfE and also their subsequent response. Not to mention Nicky Morgan’s ‘video’ too.

Let’s get up to speed. We now have a set of criteria that teachers will use to reach assessment judgements for each pupil (deadline 30th June). In Key Stage 2, there are a set of statements that must all be achieved for a pupil to be classified as ‘working at the expected standard’. The recent STA-produced exemplification materials provide guidance to support these decisions. There has been a reminder by the DfE that there is no expectation for tick lists and reams of evidence for pupils. Judgements should be drawn from and within normal classroom practice. This last sentence is a statement of good assessment practice.

There are no criteria for pupils ‘working at greater depth’. But rightly so, as a result of the Rochford review (December 2015), there are criteria that can be used to reflect the attainment of pupils working at the pre-key stage phases. The challenge here is for teachers to assimilate both the new processes and the criteria quickly. This has formed the main thrust of criticism aimed towards the DfE. It is worth pausing for a moment to recall one of the rationales for the removal of levels – namely, that parents didn’t understand them.


Teachers have to get their heads around these new criteria first and quickly. I will whisper when I remind you that these are interim statements and maybe subject to change in the following year…. ssshh!

NB **Further clarification from the @educationgovuk came through on 16th May, if you entered a child for the test but they don’t meet every ‘Pupil Can’ statement in the ITAFs you should use the code HNM.

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It is a slightly different picture in Key Stage 1. There are criteria for ‘working towards’; at the ‘expected standard’ and ‘at greater depth within the expected standard’. There are also pre-key stage criteria too. The vast majority of pupils will engage with the tests at some point in May which will be used to support teacher assessment. As with Year 6, exemplification materials will be used by teachers to support judgements. And, as of the end of March, there is now exemplification of pupils’ learning for ‘working towards the expected standard’ and ‘working at greater depth within the expected standard’.

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Best fit? The statutory approach this year for Years 2 and 6 specifies that pupils have to achieve all of the ‘pupil can’ statements to achieve the threshold. These can be regarded as an interim minimum standard because pupils will demonstrate their understanding in a wider range of contexts than those that have been identified.

In all other year groups, the ‘best fit’ approach to summative teacher assessment is advisable. Many teachers are familiar with the ‘NOFAN’ acronym (Never-Occasionally-Frequently-Always-Never) when considering evidence of learning and are aware of the weighting slant to number and calculation to support overall decisions. Developing this confidence in the context of the new criteria is crucial. Planning in regular opportunities to discuss assessment decisions and comparing these with colleagues (in your own and with other schools) are the secrets to success. These need careful preparation and timing. Similarly, approaches that help teachers discuss, explore and negotiate sensitively with others will really help them develop even greater familiarity with the curriculum expectations. Teachers who have a trained eye and ear for the key learning will be able to use this information formatively to adapt learning as it happens. This is, after all, the most important aspect and true litmus test of effective assessment practice.

Building in great opportunities for assessment The most effective way to assess pupils is to make use of everyday opportunities. To notice how pupils grapple with the learning, follow their own lines of enquiry to explain how they are working, the connections they make, the errors they stumble at… These need to be planned but can be incidentally taken too. Knowing what you are looking and listening for is essential. This allows teachers to modify questions and activities immediately in response to pupils. But for many the curriculum is still newish. Deepening greater familiarity and clarity about the expectations of learning remains the focus. To support teachers to build in rich opportunities for learning, the maths team have devised a suite of tasks. There are explicit references to both the conceptual understanding in the curriculum and the ‘working mathematically’ skills at the start of each booklet. This is followed by a range of adaptable tasks and activities. To help teachers further, many printable resources are included in each too. The ‘tasks guidance’ document is essential pre-reading. They have been developed as a stimulus and it is anticipated that teachers will modify and innovate from the ideas. Feedback from schools has been very positive. So more are on their way!

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