The 6th Way Balance Differs From Other Assessment Tools
By Susan Cowell
Not all assessment tools are created equally.
Some tools are simply “resprays” of old recording systems. We believe that our children deserve better and we’ve gone the extra mile to deliver something that focuses on the learning journey AND keeps an eye on the destination.
We’ve partnered with thought-leaders in the assessment field to create a tool that is absolutely fit for purpose and truly does represent a system designed for life after levels.
That system is Balance and here’s just 5 reasons why it’s refreshingly different…
1. Balance is a formative, in-classroom assessment tool
Although many traditional systems look purely at summative assessment, research indicates that “it is high quality formative assessment that goes to the heart of good teaching” (John McIntosh, Chair of the Commission on Assessment without levels).
The system is flexible, you can use this on a daily, weekly, monthly or termly basis. Many of our schools use Balance on a regular basis to ensure they have the most effective, accurate data.
The recent NAHT- Redressing the Balance (2017) report agrees that “we should continue to focus on improving the effectiveness of day-to-day assessment across all schools”.
2. Schools use Balance to help reduce teacher workload
The Ofsted Inspections: Myths report published in August 2016 clarifies that “Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback; These are for the school to decide through its assessment policy.”
Many of our schools have adapted their marking policy to reduce the amount of written feedback required in books and increase the emphasis on verbal feedback.
Helen Kelly (Headteacher at Norley C of E Primary) has found that using Balance has resulted in “marking time being halved” within her school.
3. Balance promotes ‘understanding’ over ‘coverage’
We have worked with educational specialists to break the curriculum down into objectives. The aim of this is to easily identify small steps of progress and any gaps in learning, rather than using the broad statements in the National Curriculum where pupils may only understand part of what’s being asked of them.
4. Customise progress trend lines
Balance recognises that each pupils’ learning journey is different and not all pupils make the same level of progress, so there is the option in Balance to customise trend lines.
Our default trend line is not linear because we know that progress doesn’t work this way! (e.g. during December the expected level of progress may not be as high because of interruptions such as holidays, school plays, etc.)
“Learning is personal. It’s personal, or nothing” — Sir Ken Robinson
5. Simple, clear and accurate analysis
We know that some systems out there show you lots of different ways of seeing the same information, but we have focused on keeping the analysis simple. The benefit of this is that you can print off individual pupil analysis and share this with parents so they have a clear understanding of their child’s progress.
Balance’s clear analysis also means that everything is easy to find for both class teachers and senior leaders.
6. Balance covers foundation curricula
For the last few years, inspection focus has largely been on outcomes for Maths and Literacy. Ofsted are now acutely aware of how much foundation subjects are falling by the wayside.
Balance presents a way for teachers to plan cross-curricular lessons. This means that progress towards the science curriculum can be assessed alongside the progress with the maths curriculum, or English writing with the history curriculum.
Because Balance focuses on making the curriculum more manageable for teachers and pupils by breaking it down into key learning objectives, gaps in learning can easily be highlighted. This helps teachers to see gaps across all curriculum areas in one central place.