At Sawston Village College we have been working on phase 1 of our BeyondLevels project. The project began with a joint staff meeting, Facilitated by Sue Swaffield of the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, joined by all teachers from Sawston and our 7 feeder primary schools. Sue is an expert in both school leadership and formative assessment, and engaged us with the latest research and practice in these areas.
Subsequently, volunteers from across the cluster, with all schools represented, have been working in a joint R&D group, investigating the strategies, systems, conditions and principles that enable effective formative feedback to take place. The group has had particular, but not exclusive, regard to how we can ensure that our formative feedback strategies support the learning of pupils who are at risk of under-performance and whose literacy skills might hinder the potential impact of conventional formative assessment strategies.
Teachers in the R&D group have formed sub-groups, each with a different focus area for their research. This has created fresh and inspiring partnerships which would not otherwise have existed. For example, a PE teacher, music teacher and early years teacher have been collaborating on how they use verbal, rather then written, feedback in a meaningful and formative way.
Later in the academic year, we will hold a plenary joint staff meeting, again for all cluster teachers. This meeting will be planned and led by the R&D group, sharing their findings, offering advice, and proposing new guidance and policy as appropriate, as it arises naturally from the research. Where appropriate, such guidance and policy will be adopted across the cluster.
Phase 2 is also underway. Phase 2 will more specifically examine the nature of the assessment systems, structures and criteria that will be developed and adopted in place of levels. Senior leadership at Sawston Village College have begun deep, first principles conversations about this, and primary schools have been investigating alternatives, including hearing advice from Tim Oates and Mark Dawe of Cambridge Assessment / OCR. The next phase is to bring together these big picture reflections together with the R&D group findings and explore with the wider CASSA network what assessment systems, models and criteria might be appropriate for us to adopt, including considering the scale of such models. For example, do we devise and adopt whole cluster, whole school, cross-phase, subject-specific, key stage specific or other models?