10 key updates for 2018 KS2 writing assessment

    Published: 27 February 2018

    Since the revised Teacher Assessment Framework (TAF) for 2017-8 was released, school leaders, advisers, moderators and teachers have begun to unpack and unpick what the changes are and their significance. It takes time to digest any revisions and there has been much useful discussion regarding various aspects of the 2018 TAF. Hence I thought it useful to synthesise, into one place, the salient points covering all aspects of the changes and modifications for 2018. In producing the following list, I have drawn upon national training received, the STA guidance for Teacher Assessment, discussions with colleagues at HfL, and blogs from fellow professionals from within and outside of HfL. Some in the list represent a change, but others are not changes, but a shift in emphasis.>

    The standards have not changed, so just what has changed in the guidelines for assessing writing at the end of key stage 2 in 2018 and how does that affect teaching and learning?

    1. New flexibility: ‘A very particular weakness’

    The Teacher Assessment Framework is a ‘secure fit’ model. A pupil’s writing should meet all the ‘pupil can’ statements within the standard they are judged to be working at.

    However, ‘teachers can now use their discretion to ensure that, on occasion, a particular weakness does not prevent an accurate judgement being made of a pupil’s overall attainment.’ (Note: ‘Particular weakness’ relates to the writing – to a whole or part of one, or maximum two, ‘pupil can’ statements - NOT to the child.) ‘The overall standard of attainment, set by the ‘pupil can’ statements, remains the same’ - 2018 teacher assessment guidance, p.5

    Further clarification is given: ‘A particular weakness may well relate to a specific learning difficulty, but it is not limited to this. In addition, a specific learning difficulty does not automatically constitute a particular weakness which would prevent an accurate judgement. The same overall standard must be applied equally to all pupils.’ – 2018 teacher assessment guidance: key stage 2, p. 13

    Examples and scenarios of ‘good reasons’ for an allowance of a particular weakness in the writing are included within the pack of moderation materials available to all schools via the ‘Teacher Assessment’ tab on NCA tools.

    Key questions to consider, on a pupil by pupil basis, when considering whether to make an allowance for a ‘particular (writing) weakness’:

    • Is the particular weakness in a part or whole of a ‘pupil can’ statement(s) fundamental to the holistic judgment of the writing?
    • How much impact does this weakness have on the writing as a whole?

    For more guidance and discussion of this new ‘flexibility’, please see Sophie MacNeill’s blog "A very particular weakness".

    2. Build up a picture over time - the true story about independence

    As in previous years, the STA has stipulated that ‘Pupils’ writing upon which teachers base their judgements must be produced independently.’ However, it is a misunderstanding to think that all writing must be completely independent. Modelling writing and the writing process, magpieing from authors, and collaborating and learning from each other are all levers that raise standards for every child in the class. Part of a teacher’s job is to build up a picture over time of what the child can do independently.

    In recognition of this, the STA has added the following new clarification:

    ‘A piece of writing may provide evidence of a pupil demonstrating some ‘pupil can’ statements independently, but not others. For example, a pupil may produce an independent piece of writing which meets many of the statements relating to composition and the use of grammar, but they did not demonstrate independent spelling where the teacher has provided the pupil with domain specific words or corrected their spelling. This does not mean that the entire piece is not independent.’ – Taken from the 2018 KS2 teacher assessment guidance, p. 13

    Therefore, independence is not about teachers whipping away support from pupils, or, at a predetermined date, taking away success criteria and useful feedback. Our role as teachers is to give pupils the support and feedback that they need. This will look different for different children – and will need to be judged on a pupil-by-pupil basis.

    Overall, the STA state that:

    Writing is likely to be independent if it:

    • emerges from a text, topic, visit, or curriculum experience in which pupils have had opportunities to discuss and rehearse what is to be written about

    • enables pupils to use their own ideas and provides them with an element of choice, for example writing from the perspective of a character they have chosen themselves

    has been edited, if required, by the pupil without the support of the teacher, although this may be in response to self, peer, or group evaluation

    • is produced by pupils who have, if required, sought out classroom resources, such as dictionaries or thesauruses, without prompting to do so by the teacher

    Writing is not independent if it has been:

    • modelled or heavily scaffolded
    • copied or paraphrased
    • edited as a result of direct intervention by a teacher or other adult, for example when the pupil has been directed to change specific words for greater impact, where incorrect or omitted punctuation has been indicated, or when incorrectly spelt words have been identified by an adult for the pupil to correct
    • produced with the support of electronic aids that automatically provide correct spelling, synonyms, punctuation, or predictive text
    • supported by detailed success criteria that specifically direct pupils as to what to include, or where to include it, in their writing, such as directing them to include specific vocabulary, grammatical features, or punctuation

    Taken from the 2018 KS2 teacher assessment guidance, p. 14 (Bold type has been added to highlight key areas.)

    A key point to consider is the role of the adult in prompting or aiding edits and enhancements. Are we sometimes over-helping, pointing out corrections before a child has had a chance to find them for themselves? What steps are we talking to help pupils’ develop self-efficacy and autonomy?

    For further discussion of key strategies for building independence in writing, please read Sophie MacNeill’s blog "A declaration of independence".For those that would like to engage with the research regarding the most effective strategies for the teaching of writing, please see this article from Literacy for Pleasure.

    3. Don’t ditch success criteria

    ‘Teachers may choose to use success criteria in lessons to help pupils to understand what they have learnt and help them to judge whether a pupil has met the objectives for a piece of writing. Using success criteria does not mean that a pupil’s writing is not independent; they would simply need to avoid modelling or over-scaffolding the expected outcome. Furthermore, using detailed success criteria as a teaching tool for one aspect of writing could still provide independent evidence of other ‘pupil can’ statements which have not been mentioned.’ –Taken from the STA 2018 teacher assessment guidance, p.13-14.

    Examples of over-detailed criteria may include

    • success criteria that are extremely long and/or overly directive (e.g. you must include a semi-colon)

    • success criteria that give model examples of each criterion (e.g. “Determined to escape the cold, the penguins huddle together”)

    4. The statutory word lists are statutory

    Pupils must show that they can spell the actual words from the Y3/4 and Y5/6 spelling lists. Spelling evidence can come from their books or from a spelling test. Where pupils have used these words in their writing, they must be spelt mostly correctly. If there is absolutely no evidence (from a spelling test or in their writing) then they will not meet this ‘pupil can’ statement.

    5. The requirement is now for joined handwriting to meet the expected standard.

    This year, pupils are required to demonstrate joined handwriting to meet the expected and greater depth standard.

    6. Cohesion matters

    For helpful teaching tips, do read Penny Slater’s useful blog "KS2 Writing Assessment: Clarifying Cohesion".

    7. Purpose and audience

    The explicit reference to ‘awareness of the reader’ in the revised ‘pupil can’ statements emphasises the importance of the writer’s intended audience.

    Ensure that purposeful tasks enable the pupil to demonstrate an awareness of the intended audience, so pupils are able to adopt vocabulary and grammatical structures that reflect what the writing requires, e.g. (from STA exemplification 'Morgan') the polite recommendation in the letter of thanks, the impersonal constructions in the graffiti argument and technical vocabulary in the science piece.

    Key points:

    • When setting tasks, be clear about who is the intended audience, and the purpose of the writing

    • Allow opportunities for pupils to select their own intended audience

    • Give plenty of opportunities to read their writing aloud

    • During reading, consider how the reader is affected, and how the author elicited these responses.

    See also"A true purpose for writing - moving on in looking at primary writing".

    8. Derive writing from reading

    The new annotations in the exemplification clearly reference where the pupil has drawn and modelled their writing from reading. At Greater Depth the requirement is that pupils draw ‘independently on what they have read as models for their own writing.’

    9. ‘Shifts of formality’ have gone- but knowledge of the vocabulary and grammatical structures of both formal and informal writing has not.

    'At the Expected Standard, pupils should apply their knowledge of vocabulary and grammatical structures to writing for different contexts, which may include those that are formal or informal.

    At Greater Depth, pupils must be able to consciously control the level of formality, and recognise that certain features of spoken language (e.g. contracted verb forms, other grammatical informality, colloquial expressions, long coordinated sentences) are less likely in writing and be able to select alternative vocabulary and grammar.' – Taken from STA Lead Moderator training material 2018

    10. An end to punctuation bingo

    Punctuation expectations in the 2018 TAF:

    punctuation expectations

    * punctuation taught in Year 6

    What are the implications for your teaching of punctuation?

    For a useful teaching resource that explains the function of punctuation and grammar see this from Literacy for Pleasure.


    The direction of travel is clear. As summarised by the HfL English team -

    The key is to remember to ADD LOV(v)E:

    Audience and purpose

    Derived from reading and

    Developed through spoken language

    Levels of formality



    Variation of sentence structures to suit purpose

    Editing for accuracy and enhancement


    Useful resources

    Herts for Learning

    Exemplification found on the HfL PA Plus Assessment Resources page

    HfL Blogs

    STA exemplification

    2018 Teacher assessment framework

    2018 Pre-Key Stage 2 pupils working below the test standard Interim teacher assessment framework

    2018 Teacher assessment moderation: requirements for key stage 2

    Optional recording grids (TAFs) - produced by Norfolk CC

    Transforming writing

    Amazon Young Storyteller

    National Strategies document ‘Developing Early Writing’ – pages 75 – 82: Developing the Concept of a Sentence)

    2018 Assessment and reporting arrangements

    Funnel marking

    Literacy for Pleasure

    RS Assessment blog byShareen Mayers

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