Martin Galway wraps up his short series of blogs on  managed shifts of formality as required to award ‘Working at Greater Depth (GDS) within the expected standard’  under the Interim Teacher Assessment Framework (ITAF) for writing. 

Audience and Purpose

I don’t mean to be rude but I start this blog off with a bit of a nightclub bouncer’s announcement.  If your raison d’être is not down, you’re not coming in. I have written this blog for year 6 teachers, English subject leads, school leaders, and the politely curious.  There is much commentary around the assessment arrangements for writing in year 6 and with very good reason.  It’s unquestionably problematic.  That said, the intended audience  here are the people that actually have to work with the ITAF.  In this case, the year 6 teachers in the final throes of forming judgments in relation to the writing attainment of the children they have worked with over the past heady year.

If you’re still with me, let’s bring this particular series of blogs to a close. This is a relief as I will no longer face the latent threat of a typo as I write “shift” for the umpteenth time.  It also means I can move on to my promised return to the subject of “verb forms” (following this earlier effort) .  I’ve missed talking about verbs.  They’re so much more fun to play with; they’re my very own linguistic fidget spinner.

Previously, I shared a guide to some of the indicators of different levels of formality  and a lesson plan designed to provide opportunities to teach, practise and apply some of these features in ways that feel meaningful rather than simply conjured up to generate evidence. In that last blog, I promised a list of writing opportunities that might give your children (GDS candidates or not) scope to move around the formality sphere in a carefully managed way.  That list follows soon enough.  I just want to highlight a further range of materials that you may not have seen, but will likely heard of: this year’s moderator  training materials which have been helpfully gathered here.

Moderators’ Training Materials

If you are keen to further explore what is considered acceptable as evidence of managed shifts, follow the link and focus on documents numbered 1 (Palm oil letter) to 7 (Beecher woods) together with the document “Commentaries am session”.  Documents 1 to 7 contain samples from different writing banks that were judged to be GDS.  Some of the pieces meet the requirement relating to formality; some don’t.  The commentary explains which pieces did, and which pieces didn’t, and sets out to explain why.   I did begin to collate these into a table, saw that it would be yet another potential tick-list, and thought better of it.  All together, they should not take too long to read and it really is better to print off the samples and look at them sat alongside the commentary.

The commentaries may be useful to year 6 teachers  in that they highlight a range of shifts that occur in texts that are recognisable as strong primary writing.  They tell us what is used.  They tell us why (the commentator thinks) they are used.  They don’t necessarily tell us why this is a good thing or not.  That seems to be another, untold story.  That said,  it is stated in several places that for the standard to be awarded, formality shifts have to be managed.  Please also note this caveat:

STA slide GDS

In a recent online debate, some of us were told that in relation to assessing writing at KS2 there is “no special knowledge.”  Perhaps that is so, though it probably helps to know the STA’s particular requirements all the same.   (The slide above is also taken from the moderator training powerpoint which can also be found on the Bradford site).

Writing Tasks 

I’m quite keen to wrap things up on this particular bullet point and to make good on my promise to provide some suggested activities after my detailed lesson plan.  You will find that the PDF below contains a  list of writing tasks that you may wish to undertake with your class.  I firmly believe that even with the highly prescriptive demands of the ITAF and the do-or-die, cliff-edge nature of this secure fit system, we can still produce writing that is creative, meaningful and satisfying to teach and learn.  That is not my endorsement of the system; it is my endorsement of the profession.

Please note the list below is not exhaustive.  See it as a friendly “we could do this” chat in the staffroom – especially if you are a year 6 teacher in a single-form-entry school.  The STA documents also serve up some inspiration, but the best tasks will come from your own ideas, shaped by your curriculum.  May I just make a small request?  Please do feel free to share the resource, but a credit to the blog would be much appreciated.  We’re hoping that our blogs will prove useful to as many colleagues as possible.  We do appreciate all the sharing that has happened to date.

GDS text ideas

GDS text ideas pic

This resource is part of a suite of materials shared on our Securing and Assessing GDS course.  You can find out more or book a place here.  If you would like  cost effective training for the new year, you may wish to consider arranging a cluster session.  Get in touch if you would like to discuss options, either via our twitter account @HertsEnglish or e mail: or call  01438 845111.



Herts for Learning is a not for profit organisation that provides a wide range of training and CPD courses, events and conferences  to support teachers and school staff in their professional development and also offers an extensive range of resources to support their offering through the HfL e-Shop.  Please visit the website for more information.