Assessment and the individual

Posted: 5th May 2019

One of my personal education heroes is Sir Ken Robinson.  (Some of you may have watched his TED Talk on creativity in schools.) Sir Ken talks knowledgeably about the history of mass, organised education in this country being in line with the industrial revolution of the 19th Century and the subsequent ‘industrialisation’ of education itself; the processing of high numbers of individuals through a national programme.

It is that key point that the best education establishments work hard to resist; education must be about the individual, not the masses. Sir Ken tells a story of a Reception teacher who asks one of her children what she is painting.  When met with the response, “I’m painting God”, the teacher said, “Oh, that’s interesting, because no-one knows what God looks like.” The 4 year old, quick as a flash, replied, “They will in a minute!”

The industrial model of education tells us that if a child is in a certain year group at school, they should be able to do x, y and z.   But x, y and z may simply come later. That’s why we use the term ‘emerging’ when judging a child’s progress in a specific area of their learning.  A better term might simply be, ‘not yet’.

Government Ministers for Education over the years stand up and pronounce great things at the beginnings of their tenures.  Most of them have the following statement in the opening paragraphs: “We need to drive up standards. And generally in the following sentences comes the everlasting phrase: “To achieve this, we need more rigorous testing!”  

Have they never heard the phrase, “You don’t fatten a pig by weighing it!”?

At Holmwood, we use reasonable and appropriate assessment to enable our teachers to interpret the data and to check to see if it confirms their professional judgement or challenges it.  The result either way is the dialogue that takes place to ensure gaps are identified, next steps are put in place and children understand where they are in their learning.

Categories: Headmaster's Blog


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Essex CO6 4DX
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Holmwood House School

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Essex CO3 9ST
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