'How would Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah fare if the Rio Olympics adopted a primary school method of assessment?'

18th April 2016 at 12:00
Jess Ennis
In his column this week, Michael Tidd explores how DfE changes to primary assessment might play out at Rio 2016

In just a few months, the Rio Olympics will begin. And in their efforts to be fair to all competitors and to rigorously improve standards, I can't help but think that the International Olympic Committee could learn from the recent "improvements" to primary assessment made by the Department for Education.

Minsters were very quick to point out how difficult the old numbered-level system in schools was for parents to understand; the same problems must plague Olympic events with their complex system of ordinal number results. I propose a mass simplification, drawing on the exemplary work carried out by the department.

From 2016, although there will still be 28 official Olympic sports, ranging from golf to gymnastics, the focus for the final league tables will be squarely on the essential sports of diving and judo, where it is vital that other nations catch up with East Asian competitors in the global market place.

Within events, the old-fashioned and complex system of places 1, 2 and 3, with their respective medal colours of gold, silver and bronze, will be replaced by much clearer judgements.

Levels of attainment

The very highest-attaining competitors will be given the "Olympic Ability with Greater Depth" award. Sportsmen and women of this calibre will, of course, also be expected to demonstrate joined-up handwriting before receiving their medal.

The next level of attainment will be that of "Olympic Ability", for which competitors will need to demonstrate a full range of skills across their chosen area of expertise.

For events that combine disciplines, such as the decathlon, it will no longer be sufficient to achieve a "best fit" win. Rather, Olympic Ability will only be awarded to the candidates who win every stage of the event.

Similarly, for relay races and longer track events, prizes will only be given to a competitor who is fastest in every lap completed.

Must try harder

For those failing to meet the expected standard of Olympic Ability, there will be a lesser award indicating that competitors are "Working Towards Olympic Ability". Of course, this will not apply to all disciplines; in some areas competitors will simply be described as "Not of Olympic Ability".

For sportspeople who reach only qualifying heats of events, there will be further gradings of success, including "Olympic Foundations" and "Growing Development of Olympic Skill".

To prevent any confusion about the fact that Growing Development might sound better than Not of Olympic Ability, competitors will also be provided with a "Scaled Result".

This will allow all events to be compared more accurately. A scale has yet to be decided, but it might work in such a way that a high jump record of 2.3m would achieve the same Scaled Result as a 100m sprint of 9.8 seconds.

Following the Olympics, countries that have failed to improve their Scaled Results will be forcibly overtaken by more successful countries.

I’m sure you’ll agree – the new system of grading will be much clearer for parent observers to understand.

Michael Tidd is deputy head of Edgewood Primary in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire. He writes weekly for TES and tweets at @MichaelT1979

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook


Related Content

Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today