Writer’s Block


So, there we were, 15 of us sat round at our INSET day. Trying to work out whether the writing that our children had done before Christmas was at a level appropriate for their age. We were supposed to say whether that the writing in front of us was either below age expected, at or exceeding but none of us were entirely sure.

Why not? We decided we were in no position to say where we thought the writing should be placed because we had no basis for comparison. Yes, we had a top, middle and bottom from each year group but how are we supposed to know yet if it is what the children are supposed to be composing. We need to see the perfect example of an “At Year 4”. I vaguely remember a bank of example pieces under the old levelling system that one could download off the internet and see what a 4c piece of writing would look like. That helped!

This is the writing guidance given in the National Curriculum for children in Year 3&4.

I’d like to put my neck on the line and risk being corrected but to me it’s a bit vague. There are mentions of fronted adverbials (which, according to spell check, isn’t even a word) and using direct speech correctly amongst other things. Is this all we are supposed to assess our children on? Have my children got mastery in writing if they can tick all those boxes? How do I know I am assessing to the same standard as someone in another school?

One teacher in this meeting was discussing that they think most of their children already have mastery in writing for their year group. Where does that teacher now take their class? I for one don’t believe that all their children have mastery already. But, when it comes to their pupil progress meeting, would it not play out like this…

Head: So, in December you said all your children had mastery, where are they now?

Teacher: Well, they still have mastery.

Head: So, where is the progress?

Teacher: err? I moved them onto the year above curriculum.

Head: OK but Year 3 and Year 4 need to learn the same things, did you move your Year 3s onto Year 5 then?

Teacher: err?

This thought prompted me to think, no child can surely have mastery of the year group yet? All these new things to cover, no teacher is that good that all their Year 3 children are using fronted adverbials with no difficulty whatsoever at just over 1/3 into the year.

As a result I wondered, what do we as a teaching community currently use to assess writing? Is it just us who are struggling to find a basis for assessment? How do I know if my children are below where they should be or flying high above the rest?

Pie Corbett offered this as to what he thinks children in each year should know and I’d rather be using this as a kind of new form of APP grid than the National Curriculum guidance that doesn’t tell me much at all.

Reassure me that it isn’t just us that are unsure, tell me there are others out there as well…

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