Welsh Government recently announced that ‘The 2021 to 2022 academic year will have been the final year requiring the statutory Foundation Phase baseline assessment.’ (https://hwb.gov.wales/curriculum-for-wales/assessment-arrangements/supporting-transition-from-the-current-arrangements-to-curriculum-for-wales/#school-assessment-arrangements-for-summer-term,-2022)
However, they also spell out the following expectations for on-entry assessment:
‘To support this, under the new arrangements, schools and settings must:
To that end, we have added functionality to Taith360 to enable you to record an on-entry assessment for pupils in any year group, at any point throughout the academic year. To do this, select the previous academic year on Assess and then record assessments as normal. Once complete, simply switch back to the current academic year and continue with recording ongoing assessments.
You will find more information about this on our Help & Advice site if you click here.
Support Team, Assessment360
In short, the answer is no!
We understand there have been some mixed messages received by schools about Taith360, specifically that it is the “new Incerts” and just a “tick-box exercise” that is not fit for the new curriculum. This is completely untrue and not the aim of this purpose-built system. As has always been the case, any assessments you make should be used formatively to help inform planning and teaching, and Taith360 has been specially designed to help you in this endeavour.
Why Taith360 is not just Incerts 2.0
When the documentation for the new Curriculum for Wales was released in January 2020, we at Assessment360 took a long time examining the requirements and guidance. We quickly came to the realisation and conclusion that Incerts, or a variation of it, would no longer be fit for purpose and understood the need for a change in direction and approach.
With the removal of outcomes and levels, best-fit assessment, and yearly expectations, etc., the focus shifted to more formative assessment, a way to identify strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work by providing next steps – a significant sway in the perception of assessment within education. This was backed up in the guidance provided:
“Assessment should not be used to make a one-off judgement on the overall achievement of a learner at a set age or point in time against descriptors or criteria on a best-fit basis.” (https://hwb.gov.wales/curriculum-for-wales/assessment-arrangements/supporting-learner-progression-assessment-guidance/)
We therefore started a process involving a focus group of schools from across Wales, both primary and secondary settings, and both Incerts and non-Incerts users. Like with the curriculum, we wanted the system to be designed with school leaders/teachers input as they would be the ones using it.
The result of this development is Taith360 – built from the ground up for the new curriculum, it is not simply the ‘new Incerts’.
Progress and assessment using Taith360
Two of the key elements of the new curriculum are progression and assessment:
“Learner progression along a continuum of learning from ages 3 to 16 is central to Curriculum for Wales. Assessment plays a fundamental role in enabling each individual learner to make progress” (https://hwb.gov.wales/curriculum-for-wales/assessment-arrangements/supporting-learner-progression-assessment-guidance)
It is important to see where the children are in order to further develop their learning, and to plan activities and tasks that will help them further progress in their learning across progression steps. Assessments made on Taith360 can help you to keep track of each learner’s progress, and by assessing and planning on Taith360 you can help aid a pupil’s progress.
As you will know, the mandatory statements of what matters form the basis of learners’ progression. Supporting these are the descriptions of learning (which describe how learners should make progress within each statement of what matters):
“Descriptions of learning provide guidance on how learners should progress within each statement of what matters as they journey through the continuum of learning.”
“The descriptions of learning have been designed to help practitioners understand what learners’ progress should look like and provide reference points on the pace of progression to inform curriculum design and learning and teaching.”
As you can imagine, we try to keep on top of as much information regarding the new curriculum as possible, which is why we frequently look at the Curriculum for Wales blog. Here, they have a couple of posts that address several myths and misinterpretations that have emerged since the new Curriculum was released.
In the second of these posts The Curriculum for Wales – Dispelling the Myths – Part 2, it talks about the descriptions of learning:
"Myth #7 The Achievement Outcomes are our new levels.
Achievement outcomes are different to levels. They represent the essential learning that needs to be taking place at these reference points, and should not be used as tick boxes or as a ‘best fit’ model. They should be the basis for curriculum planning and building an accurate picture of how learners are progressing across AOLEs and towards the four purposes. Achievement Outcomes are descriptions of learning, their focus should be formative, identifying where learners need support and what they should do next. Practitioners should continuously refer back to achievement outcomes in their curriculum and assessment planning." (https://curriculumforwales.gov.wales/2019/09/26/the-curriculum-for-wales-dispelling-the-myths-part-2/)
The key to this is the last couple of sentences:
“…Achievement Outcomes are descriptions of learning, their focus should be formative, identifying where learners need support and what they should do next. Practitioners should continuously refer back to achievement outcomes in their curriculum and assessment planning.”
The descriptions of learning have been included in Taith360 for this purpose. They are intended to guide and inform learning and teaching not to be used simply as a checklist, or a series of criteria to be assessed against in order to arrive at a best-fit judgement – Taith360 will not give you that information. The assessments recorded are not necessarily linear, pupils can move forward and backwards easily, as it is important to show exactly where you feel the pupil’s understanding is in order to know where they need to go next.
Therefore, what the assessments on Taith360 will give you is the information that you can then use to inform planning, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of a cohort, class and/or individual pupil – the intended use of the descriptions of learning as described in the guidance. In addition to this, when combined with general observations and other pupil data recorded on the system, it all comes together to help build a complete picture of each pupil’s learning journey
Taith360 is also being used by schools to support them in exploring what the progression steps mean to them and how this aids with ensuring uniformity is applied across the school. Don’t just take our word for it:
“Taith360 is a very successful resource for us as two schools. It has helped us also to understand the Curriculum for Wales too!” (Headteacher, primary school in Carmarthenshire)
“I would like to thank you for Taith360, it is proving invaluable in helping us get our heads around the new curriculum and is helping us develop our curriculum map and organise ourselves for the next academic year.” (Assessment Lead, Primary School in Cardiff)
As we have discussed, progress is important and being able to identify where progress has been made is vital - the assessments on Taith360 can help with this. As I’ve said, this is not achieved by not by giving you a number and saying whether that is good, bad, on-track, or anything else. Instead, Taith360 highlights Areas or Statements of What Matters which a cohort, class, or pupil may have, or have not, progressed well in. However, in order to show progress, you must first be able to record and show a starting point.
In the Supporting transition from the current arrangements to Curriculum for Wales guidance released on 18th May 2022, it states that “The 2021 to 2022 academic year will have been the final year requiring the statutory Foundation Phase baseline assessment.” We will therefore not be adding this functionality into Taith360.
However, the guidance does add that “on-entry assessment arrangements will be an important part of a school or setting’s overall assessment arrangements to plan and appropriately support a learner to make progress within a curriculum” and it is because of this that we will be adding a baseline function into Taith360 ready for the new academic year.
For us, as well as supporting schools to use the tool, development of Taith360 is an on-going process. We are constantly looking at ways of further enhancing the system based upon recommendations and requests from the schools that use it, hopefully resulting in us building the best system possible for Wales.
If you would like to hear more about Taith360 or have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Support Manager, Assessment360
There is a lot happening at Assessment360 at the moment so I thought it might be useful to give a summary of these changes.
The Assessment Foundation is now called Assessment360
We’re not very good at being idle here at Assessment360, and despite a worldwide pandemic and all the challenges that brings, we have spent the past few years doing what we do best – assessing.
However, this time we’ve been assessing the systems we offer to schools, and how they fit in with the way education practices are currently evolving. Having worked with schools across the United Kingdom on different projects over the years, we understand that the pupil is very much at the centre of their learning, and assessment is more than just looking at academic achievement.
This has resulted in the development of the ‘360 suite of assessment systems’ that are specifically tailored to each country in the United Kingdom. We thought that this fundamental change in our systems and approach should be reflected in the company name too, so we are now called Assessment360.
Incerts is being replaced by Taith360 in Wales
It is an exciting, yet daunting time for schools across Wales as they transition towards the new Curriculum for Wales which becomes statutory for primary schools from September 2022.
For the past 16 years, Incerts has been used by the large majority of Welsh Primary Schools to assess and track progress of their pupils. Nevertheless, the new curriculum calls for a new approach to assessment, tracking and planning and we realised that Incerts would no longer support schools in the way it had previously. Therefore, we have developed Taith360 specifically with the new curriculum and its requirements in mind. Please see the Curriculum2022 section of our website for further information on this.
We felt that the best way to help schools prepare for the new curriculum was to make Taith360 available to all schools during this transitionary period. This way, schools could start getting used to the system whilst also becoming more familiar with the curriculum. Any schools currently using Incerts for assessment, analysis and reports would be able to continue doing so at the same time as exploring Taith360 too:
To be clear, Taith360 is its own system and there are no links with Incerts. If a school currently uses Incerts, you will still be able to continue using it as normal this academic year. From September 2022, Taith360 will replace Incerts and be the exclusive system we offer schools in Wales for assessment, tracking and planning.
We are welcoming Secondary schools on board
As mentioned previously, for primary schools, roll-out will commence in September 2022. Secondary schools who wish to roll out the curriculum to Year 7 are encouraged to do so, but this will not be mandatory until 2023, with roll-out to Years 7 and 8 together:
(image from: https://hwb.gov.wales/curriculum-for-wales/curriculum-for-wales-the-journey-to-curriculum-roll-out)
Therefore, we have developed Taith360 with secondary schools in mind too and we are really pleased to be welcoming secondary schools to the Assessment360 family. By having secondary schools on board, pupils will be able to move up with their assessments, meaning that their new teachers will have a valuable insight into them as a pupil while also having their specific next steps just a couple of clicks away.
What’s NOT changing
Despite the changes listed above, we are fundamentally still the same company with the same principles, to develop innovative online tools that use formative assessment to give every child a transformational learning experience and reduce teachers non-teaching workload.
We also have the same skilled support team who are available to help so if there is ever anything you need, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Chief Operating Officer, Assessment360
There are many words that we would now wish to hear less often in this country, and indeed the world. From the irritating tautology of ‘global pandemic’ to the dread of ‘self-isolation’ – and let’s not even get started on ‘tiers’ or ‘alerts’.
So I’ll start by apologising for offering up another roadmap. Much like the plans laid out by the government, it’s neither a road, nor a map, but it does bear such a close relationship with other such representations that the name seemed appropriate.
The first being the Journey to 2022 – a road that the Assessment Foundation have been travelling since before it was even published for schools. It’s hard to believe that it has been six years since we attended meetings for the development of the Foundation Phase Profile, and were asked to pause some areas of work to take into account the release of the Successful Futures report in January 2015. The second being of course, the side-by-side paths laid out for the easing of lockdown on either side of the border.
We’d like to add to this by sharing ours with you today, because we know that the relationship between these two roadmaps comes with a heavy burden placed on schools. It’s not only education children have lost, but wellbeing also. It’s not only teaching time that teachers have lost, but the opportunity to prepare for the new curriculum in 2022.
Which is why we have focused our efforts on two things only; supporting recovery and supporting the path to the future.
We're also able to provide bespoke remote inset training if you'd like something custom to your school - please just let us know.
“Please can I ask you to pass on my best wishes and thanks to the team. You have all been absolutely brilliant once again this year. You make things a lot easier for me, thank you.”
This year, the Assessment Foundation are providing specialised support to secondary schools with transition data for the first time, helping secondary schools look at primary assessment data in depth, to understand what skills primary children bring with them.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taith360 – our new assessment system for Curriculum 2022 – is structured around the Areas of Learning. We’re working with Welsh curriculum experts to produce an exemplar framework for each Area – but better still, you can create your own custom framework to use in the system.
“We want to make sure we have the right assessment and planning system in place and from what I can see so far on your blog, Taith360 seems to be the complete package.”
With Taith360 available from September 2021, we’ll be ready to support your school in developing your own custom assessment for September 2022. You can start from our sample framework – or completely from scratch. Taith360 puts flexibility, customisation – and most importantly, the pupil first.
We’re here to help
There’s no sugar-coating the difficulties faced by schools. An already overburdened profession is being looked on to pick up the pieces of months of lost schooling, and with the same exhausted staff, take up the task of delivering a new curriculum too.
The Assessment Foundation is a non-profit organisation with a guiding mission statement: we want to reduce the non-teaching workload of teachers, and improve attainment for children. It’s the most overused phrase of them all – but now, more than ever we want to help schools in any way we can.
COO, The Assessment Foundation
It has been a year since the final version of Curriculum for Wales 2022 was released, and here at the Assessment Foundation we have been busy, alongside our focus groups, planning and designing a fitting assessment system to complement this new curriculum.
We are pleased to announce that we will be making a trial version available from September 2021.
“There is a ‘buzz’ about this new tool across the Assessment Foundation and beyond. As schools prepare to implement the new curriculum we are delighted that this new system has been built in collaboration with schools. It’s what they are seeking, and it’s one which will be flexible and adaptable.”
- Philip Dixon, CEO
One of the strengths of the new curriculum is that it provides a continuous journey through a child’s full-time education. There was a strong emphasis in our focus groups on the need to show a rounded picture of each child. So, we have combined the two in the new system name, Taith360.
With Taith360 you can ...
Taith360 will be available to both primary and secondary schools to capture a child’s whole educational journey. Taith360 also connects to your MIS, so set-up and data updates from your MIS are done automatically – saving a lot of admin!
The Assessment Foundation will provide an exemplar framework of progressive statements building towards the descriptions of learning for 2021 – but all schools will be able to add their own customised statements – or just use the descriptions of learning as they are.
Throughout development, schools have emphasised the need for flexibility and manageability – so we’ve made sure that we’ve reflected that every step of the way.
We’ll be sharing further details with you through the year as development progresses but if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our support team on 0300 234 2345 or email email@example.com
Sally Bliwert – Product Manager
An update from the CEO of the Assessment Foundation, Dr Philip Dixon, on the upcoming changes to assessment.
When the final version of Curriculum for Wales 2022 was released in January this year, few of us could have realised the massive disruption and disturbance that was about to take place in our children’s education and the lives of us all. While we should not underestimate the level of upheaval, the really remarkable thing is the way in which schools and teachers across Wales have risen to the challenge. Despite all the obstacles and problems, children have continued on their learning path and assessment for the next steps along that path continue to be made.
It is clear that neither the Welsh Government nor the profession want to lose the dynamism, enthusiasm, and desire that the development of the new curriculum has initiated. The timetable for implementation remains in place, with schools preparing for teaching of the new curriculum in 2021, and we are all called to play our part in delivery for September 2022.
The new system built by you
Here at the Assessment Foundation we have been working hard with schools and teachers to ensure that high quality, reliable, and useful assessments can still be made at this difficult time (see our previous blog for details). But our team has also been working flat out to develop an assessment system that delivers for the bright new world promised by Curriculum 2022. We have been engaging stakeholders across Wales in a series of focus groups and in depth discussions to ensure that what is produced is something formed, owned, and cherished by the profession.
Our experts at your service
As you know this is far from being the first time we have developed new assessment arrangements. The development of the Foundation Phase Profile that replaced the much-derided Child Development Assessment Profile as the baseline and ongoing assessment for 3-7 year olds was led by our Chief Operations Officer, Lucy Ridley, who has taken the reins of leadership in creating the assessment approach.
"I like to call this 'the 3D curriculum'. There's a wealth of support in the guidance for linking learning across the AOLEs and What Matter statements. Instead of a simple linear progression, this curriculum respects the natural twists and turns of learning and skill acquisition. The difficulty being, of course, realising a 3D curriculum in a 2D medium - on screen."
The creation of a new assessment system fitting to the new curriculum is an effort involving the whole team. Support Manager Adam Wilkinson has taken responsibility for reinventing our Focus Groups online.
"In what has been a very busy and strange period for schools, I would like to thank everyone who has supported us so far by giving their time to help us in our development sessions – the help has been invaluable as it will help inform our next stage of plans. In spite of the difficulties of this year, being able to hold meetings where we are not restricted geographically has been great. Working closely with groups of schools that have never worked together before has enabled us to facilitate wider and deeper discussions around the new curriculum."
But don’t just take our word for this - we've been delighted to receive positive feedback on our progress.
“Working in Focus Groups with the Assessment Foundation has given us the opportunity to discuss with other provisions how assessment will look in the Wales 2022 curriculum. This has helped us understand that, given the nature of the curriculum, each setting needs to be able to create their own criteria. The Assessment Foundation has listened to professionals in Wales.”
- Neil Purcell, The Court School
"The sessions have been very informative and professional. It's clear that the Assessment Foundation team have been doing a lot of preparation work to ensure that they have a system that is fit for purpose for the new curriculum. It's also very encouraging that they are utilizing the expertise of the education profession via numerous Teams meetings to ensure that it fits our needs. Great work!!!"
- Steven Cruickshank, Maesgwyn School
So what’s next?
We'll be sharing more features and updates about our brand new assessment system as we continue to develop new ideas with schools. You'll be able to…
How you can help
We're always looking for the input of schools to our system development - quite simply, we do it all for you! Sign up to our Feedback Group to hear the latest developments for Curriculum 2022, and feel free to email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or suggestions.
Dr Philip Dixon, CEO, The Assessment Foundation
As you will already know, yearly progress on Incerts is measured based on where pupils were assessed to be at the end of the previous year. However, it is quite possible that the assessments currently held on your Incerts aren’t an accurate reflection of what pupils are currently capable of, due to the period of enforced school closure and home schooling from March to June this year. For a number of pupils there will be skills that have been developed further during their time at home, due to the herculean efforts made by their teachers, providing the resources and support to ensure that learning continued. This, alongside the effort and attention put in by parents and guardians will hopefully have ensured that pupils continued to develop their skills throughout.
On the flipside, there will be other skills that may not have been looked at since March, and so those skills have been lost and need to be re-taught. Indeed, it is suggested in this article from the BBC that pupils may well be three months behind in their learning as a direct result of the enforced lockdown. As such, you will not want any ‘lost’ skills to be ticked on Incerts, as this will be misleading when you are using the system to inform lesson planning for the Autumn term.
All of this means that, in order to ensure that you have an accurate measure of progress for this year, you will want to update your assessments based on what you are observing in the classroom over the coming weeks, ahead of rolling the system forward to the new academic year. We recommend that you spend some time observing your pupils, identifying what they can and can’t do, and then amend the assessments on Incerts to make sure that you have an accurate starting point for recording progress. Then, when you roll forward, these amended assessments will show as an end of year assessment, and you can guarantee that the progress shown on the system from that point on will be accurate.
Of course, it is likely that you will have given some considerable thought to all of these issues yourselves, and you may have a different approach in mind for how you can surmount them. Rest assured that, however you intend to do this, we will be on hand to assist you in any way we can. So, if you need our help to show you how to un-tick boxes, or for any other part of the process, please get in touch.
Dan O’Dell, Support Team
We've been blown away by the brilliant way in which the entire education community have responded to this challenge, and we want to do whatever we can to continue offering our support.
Our team are on hand to help you with whatever you need, but right now we'd especially like to offer help in sharing information between teachers and parents, and with increasing our capacity to deliver free, remote training to any of our users.
We've had some brilliant feedback from past attendees who've found that our sessions have greatly improved their understanding of Incerts, and have translated that into time saved in school:
"Really interesting to see lots of features I didn't know were available! We do lots of this in a far more labour intensive way, so this will save us time!"
If you would like to book one of these training options, simply get in touch with us to let us know what you would like training on and how many people the training will be for, and we'll schedule something with you.
If you're thinking of sending your end of year reports out sooner than usual, we would recommend checking your current report templates (if you already have them set up on Incerts) and letting us know of any changes you would like.
Our example reports will give you some ideas (including grouping subjects under headings for the new AoLEs) – cherry-pick the features you like, and we’ll create new templates. You can also find these under the Reporting to Parents section of our Help & Advice site https://help.incerts.org/
We hope these suggestions are helpful, and if there's anything you need from us, please don't hesitate to get in touch..
Thank you to all schools who are doing an amazing job under extreme pressure. We appreciate that there is still plenty of work to be done after schools shut today and rest assured that we will be here as normal to offer support in any way we can. Now might be the time to investigate what more Incerts can do for you, and we are offering free remote training to any of our users who would like it.
We understand the importance of keeping our systems operational during this time and they will be kept protected and maintained as usual so you will be able to continue to use Incerts for assessment, analysis and report creation. Our Support Team are always on hand to help you with any challenges you face regarding remote working and electronic sharing especially.
We haven’t forgotten about the new curriculum and will continue to work on developing a system which will support this ready for 2022. We will be getting creative with coordinating with our focus groups to ensure we are meeting the needs of everyone.
We will aim to keep schools updated on the latest issues so please continue to check our blog and twitter feeds. We will also be in contact shortly in the normal way regarding report writing but please get in touch if you would prefer to get them generated before then.
Stay safe and well, and keep in touch.
It has been almost exactly five years since Graham Donaldson's Successful Futures report was published in March 2015, and on 28th January we finally were able to see the results of the years of co-construction, consultation and review. When we read the consultation feedback in October 2019, I was pleased to see the strong degree of consensus between our views and those of the respondents. There are a number of significant changes that have come about as a result, and I'll examine them here.
The new curriculum becomes statutory in September 2022 for children up to Year 7. Although current assessment arrangements remain in place until then, the focus of the next eighteen months will very much be on the future. Kath Lewis, the Strategic Lead for Expressive Arts in CSC, described the process as follows:
"We are by no means in a sprint to 2022, but perhaps more of a cross-country jog! There are many different routes that can be taken, and from a vast number of starting points. Some routes may appear easy, promising a flat, direct course, others may appear to offer quick wins with short cuts. What is certain is that no two schools will take the same route and that each will most likely need to stop, regroup and take stock before reaching a metaphorical – or actual – finish line!
So, what's changed?
A mere glance at the contents page can tell you how many pages have been cut from the document. This is a very satisfying change. There were heavy degrees of repeated content in the drafts, which obscured rather than revealed the detail.
There is also greater uniformity of content in each AOLE chapter, one example being the Principles of Progression (that will be statutorily enshrined as the Progression Code). Each AOLE is now prefaced by five headings describing how the skills progress along the continuum. (That is, five of the six - Mathematics and Numeracy have forged their own path.)
Overall though, there is a greater degree in consistency, with the different approaches cherry-picked from the best the draft had to offer. There have been small casualties in imposing this uniformity - for example the Expressive Arts had a very effective definition of progress that is now perhaps a little less brilliant for the change in format.
The most striking visual difference between the draft and final version of the curriculum is the presentation of the Achievement Outcomes - or should I say descriptors, for the former terminology is nowhere to be seen. The descriptors are now laid out horizontally in a grid, from Progression Step 1 to 5.
The Science and Technology team have gone a little further, and merged some of their grid boxes to give a greater clarity of the continuum through the Steps. These groupings are not strict assessment ladders with a hierarchy of one step to the next, but rather collections of statements. This is in keeping with our exploration of the descriptors, where skills blend and combine as children gain more sophisticated control of them.
What will be important in forming assessments around these Progression Steps is ensuring lateral, not vertical progress is prioritised, and that pupils engage in interlinked learning across the AOLEs.
There are some clear changes within individual AOLEs too. LLC is still by far the largest in size, but now shows a distinct difference in content. Translanguaging now appears far less frequently (and is mercifully put in simpler terms), and early reading strategies and SPAG are now more thoroughly fleshed out. Humanities has also had a dramatic makeover, with a decimation of the number of statements, especially at Progression Step 5.
Interestingly, the Four Purposes have perhaps taken less of a centre-stage in the final version. If this has a side-effect of deterring those putting these overarching aims into percentages and pie charts, it can only be a good thing.
Building your assessment
There are people already selling their 'ready-made' assessments and schemes to sit alongside Curriculum 2022. I applaud the surely Herculean efforts they must have gone to to achieve this within mere hours of the release of the final curriculum (especially given the volume of change, not limited to the above), but I fear that in their eagerness to please, they may have skipped the chapter on schools developing their own curriculum and assessment. For those who missed it, the help can be found on pages 21-47.
Formative assessment sits loudly and clearly at the heart of this new curriculum, and indeed, "Assessment arrangements at a school level are a matter for each school to determine as part of designing their own curriculum" (p230). This is not a task to be underestimated, in time nor in scope. Anyone hoping for - or indeed selling - a quick fix is spitting in the face of the opportunity to take the time to do this well not fast. It would be a great shame for schools to cut themselves out of a process that belongs to them.
Where do we go from here?
Now that the final version of the curriculum is available, we'll be working with schools to discuss how they intend to build their curriculum and assessment arrangements. Areas of investigation will include:
We'll discuss these issues, and others, with our focus group of schools, and you'll hear more from us as we work towards sharing our developments with all schools using Incerts from September 2020.
If you're interested in contributing to our work, please get in touch at email@example.com, or you can join our feedback group here.
Lucy Ridley, Chief Operations Officer