An Inspector Writes

29th March 1996 at 00:00
Bill Laar is a registered inspector. Write to him at The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax 0171-782 3200. e-mail:letters@tes1.demon.co.uk

We are a primary school where children struggle to match national standards of achievement. It is important, therefore, to show they are improving. How will inspectors judge this in less than a week, and how can we demonstrate that children are making satisfactory progress?

The Office for Standards in Education attaches great importance to children's progress against their earlier attainment. It is one of the most valuable things that schools can demonstrate as a key indicator of effectiveness.

It is not easy to make accurate judgements about progress, especially in a limited period. Inspectors will go about the matter by observing what children gain from individual lessons and sequences of lessons, and judging whether learning and progress are adequate. They will also evaluate children's progress over longer periods such as a few months, a year, or a whole key stage. They will: * Look at work samples, talk with teachers and children, match school planning to classroom realities and outcomes; * Refer to assessment records and any evaluation evidence, and to test results; * Check a representative group of children's competence in reading and numeracy; * Take particular account of the progress made by children with special educational needs; * Listen very carefully to your perceptions of the children's progress and take particular account of how you provide for it and obtain evidence of achievement.

What can you do to demonstrate children's progress and improvement?

* Be clear, as a staff, about what you regard as satisfactory progress. This requires markers that indicate progress in knowledge, understanding and skills in subjects across the key stages and especially in the core curriculum.

You will need to take careful account of national curriculum expectations. The TES recently referred to a primary school (The Grove in Birmingham) which expects children to progress half a national curriculum level per year in English and mathematics and identifies for special support children who fall below this. Set out what you expect children at varying levels of ability to achieve over a term in, for example, spelling or multiplication, aspects of comprehension or particular writing skills.

* Make sure lessons have clear learning objectives and targets, matched to children's current attainment, differentiated to provide for three broad levels of ability, and directed at achieving agreed levels of attainment.

* Ensure that individual lessons do not occur in isolation, but are part of longer sequences, based on schemes of work.

* Use regular moderation of children's reading, writing and mathematics to pinpoint progress; and maintain samples or profiles of work that demonstrate development. Establish profiles of national curriculum level descriptions from the children's own work.

* Use marking, discussion of work and constructive feedback to involve children in evaluating what they are learning and their progress. Encourage them to use their written work in this evaluation process.

* Use national curriculum tests and any other standardised assessment to provide authoritative evidence of progress and improvement.

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