Depending on your school you will be faced with the regular appearance of 1/2 termly or termly tests – and they always come right before a holiday!
It’s always the same – right before 1/2 term or the end of term there appear tests in Maths and English that have to be marked, graded and usually plotted against pupil progress measures!
However, if these are approached with a bit of pre-planning then the potential for these to become problematic can be reduced!
Ok let’s be honest about this – having to do these tests at any time (let alone 1/2 termly!) is always going to be a chore. In this time of school accountability however, there is a need to generate data that can be both used by the SLT and also (and for some schools)…seen by advisors and OFSTED.
But let’s put a positive spin on things and say that as teachers, we can positively use the data gathered to inform our future planning and of course the “current trend” for INTERVENTIONS!
However it is not the purpose of this article to look at any of the logistics or rights and wrongs on testing and data use ….rather – how can you as a teacher manage the process more efficiently and reduce the imposition on both you, your time and your family.
As mentioned previously these type of tests will occur more often than not in the week before 1/2 term or before the end of term…if you have a particularly thoughtful HT they may even be 2 weeks before the end of a term ( but this obviously cannot really apply before 1/2 terms!)
The nature of the tests will be the same as the SATs so will encompass all the elements of the English curriculum as well as Maths and now from recent developments more than likely times tables!
If your school is especially ahead of the game then the tests will be matched to the taught curriculum for that term and of course be progressive in it expectations as the academic year progresses. If not then your class will be faced with a test that has within it elements not yet covered and of course as such inaccessible!
Tests are usually scheduled to be done during a testing week for the school which means that if every class are engaged in the process then “we are all quiet at the same times” (usually mornings) and minimum disruption occurs – hopefully!
So what is the best way to approach this process?
What we want to avoid is the marking and assessment process encroaching on our holidays – so we don’t really want to be taking test papers home over 1/2 term or at the end of term…both holiday times that we really need to have!
But don’t expect that you can hit these things in your PPA or a generous “no staff meeting” offer – as both you and I know these sorts of times inevitably throw up interruptions and alternative ways to spend the time and so as focused, concentrated opportunities really don’t meet the requirements.
The bottom line is that in order to avoid these messing up our holiday then we have to clear them BEFORE the holiday….an easy deduction to make!
But how can we achieve this successfully? There are 2 elements that you need to include and be aware of…
- You are going to have to put in some extra work
- Restructuring your timetable for the “test week” needs to be done
If you don’t do both of these things then you will find yourself marking and assessing test papers whilst the rest of us are at the beach or sitting in a cafe drinking coffee with a large slice of cake!
Now I was, and still am, to a certain extent, a person who has no intention of generating extra and unnecessary work – however faced with this messing up my holidays then I am more than happy to do extra to clear it out!
Here’s some useful ideas for your approach – but anything that you can personally add is always welcome!
- Mark during lunchtimes…I never usually mark during lunchtimes but on these occasions I do. Usually I tackle the marking of the test that the children have just completed and bash through as much as I can! Obviously I leave myself a little time for a break and to prepare for the afternoon but most of the time….
- Continue the mark bash after school at school…so as soon as the children have gone then I am back to it to clear these papers.
- Ask your TA for some help – this is usually easier for Maths as it is a straight right / wrong or decent attempt sort of approach. English is a bit more subjective so I used to do that one.
- As recommended previously I never dawdle on marking or agonise on answers….I mark quickly and am focused on finishing. Have a look at the figures for total time needed for a class of 30 children and time spent on each paper / book…frightening and tbh unnecessary!
- Mark again at home if necessary or track etc etc
As most of the tests given are morning based then you can, at this time…
- Adjust your afternoon activities
- Schedule activities of the curriculum that require no marking.
What we don’t want is additional marking and planning to be done in the evenings that will add to our workload.
So basically the taught curriculum goes on hold for that week!….
- Some will want this completed before the 1/2 term or end of term but most won’t ask this.
- Computerised systems in school won’t usually have the tests computerised so will need marks uploading onto a system before the computer can data crunch…its an extra step but saves you having to question analyse if that’s what’s asked. (and also allows the SLT to happily generate loads of data analysis most of which will be irrelevant!)
- Question analysis done manually is quite a pain and SLT has to consider when this is asked for and what sort of additional loading on staff this gives. (One school I heard about asked for detailed question analysis to be done over the Christmas holidays….quite rightly the staff refused point blank!)
- Tracking– if computerised, then this is pretty straightforward after marks are uploaded. It can be straightforward also if your school has the right sort of system in place and should reflect the DFE SATs grading system. These are usually kept (if manually done) in class folders which are updated progressively.
In summing up – regular testing and tracking of pupil progress is a part and parcel of school life. Its regular appearance generating extra work and time commitments from every member of staff.
As these usually appear at 1/2 terms or end of terms then they have the potential to cloud what should be a welcome time away and with family. However with a bit of pre-planning and some extra time and effort in dealing with things it is possible to get things successfully dealt with before they impose on your free time.
All it takes is a little bit of determination and possibly the incentive of the coffee, cake and time with friends to get things moving!