Flexible Assessment: English tasks for children working below the levels of the National Curriculum assessment at Key Stage 2

Flexible Assessment image

What the resource is:
The 2003 article from NFER PRE summarises the development stages that occurred in order to create optional English tasks. The final versions were intended to support National Curriculum assessments at the end of year 6. These tasks were aimed at the 5% of children who come to the end of year 6, but are not entered into the National Curriculum assessments for a variety of reasons. As the standard National Curriculum assessments are deemed inappropriate for such children, these optional English tasks seek to provide flexible assessment materials for children who are working below the test levels.


The aims of the resource:
The process of development which occurred to create the new optional English tasks is outlined in the article in order to provide teachers and classroom assistants with a clearer appreciation of the English tasks and the thinking behind them. 


Key findings or focus:
The development of the tasks took over 18 months and involved small-scale trials in schools. The trials helped to inform teacher guidance on utilising the materials, including timing for tasks, children's groupings and appropriate levels of support for pupils.


The trialled tasks consisted of supported tasks, including reading and writing, for pupils working towards National Curriculum Level 1, and structured tasks, also incorporating reading and writing. The structured tasks were aimed at pupils with more independence, working within Level 2 or towards Level 3. The trials for structured tasks consisted of two stages: the first stage was informal, implemented with small groups, and the second stage was more formal in approach and was carried out with a group of 172 children.


The article discusses the various review processes that the supported tasks for reading and writing progressed through, including reviews by experts, teachers, classroom assistants and children. The article does outline some of the criteria involved in creating the supported tasks: for example, texts had to be ‘within the experiences of the child' and of ‘interest to the age group'.


With the structured tasks for reading, the article states that the children's responses to these tasks provided information on how the children reacted to the questions. The article also provides an example of findings for a structured writing task, where one of the children's prompts was intended to produce a review yet 10% of the children's responses were in a narrative style. The article goes on to suggest that reviews may be alien to some children and therefore this task was not adopted in the final version of the assessment materials. 47 teachers responded in the evaluation and were ‘extremely positive' with regard to the structured reading task, in that they rated the task appropriate in ‘difficulty, length, adaptability' and ‘interest and enjoyment'.  The teachers also felt that the manner in which assessment was carried out was also ‘satisfactory or better' and their opinions of the two writing task prompts were also positive.


The quality, authority and credibility of the resource:
The resource attempts, briefly, to outline the process in creating the optional English tasks, and thus informs practitioners and student teachers in terms of their use. More detail with regard to findings for trialled supported tasks would be welcome, as the findings may help practitioners to appreciate their use of supported tasks in more depth. However, there are examples of annotated tasks provided in the article and these can be utilised by tutors and students to gain further appreciation of the assessment process. It is also important to note that the article emphasises a positive approach to the assessment of pupils working below the expectations for Key Stage 2.


The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
The article may be best employed when addressing issues surrounding National Curriculum assessment, including how to support underachieving children, and the assessment procedures available for them


The relevance to ITE students:
ITE students may find the article useful when learning about National Curriculum assessment and if they are involved in implementing the optional English tasks as part of their classroom practice. Students may also find the exemplification materials relevant to their practice.


Reviewed by:

Karen Lowing


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