Assessment without Tears? pupil progression in KS2 languages

    Published: 08 April 2017

    It’s been a busy term for the Herts for Languages team.  We were invited to give a talk at the Association of Language Learning’s annual Language World conference in Nottingham at the end of March.  The theme for the 2017 conference was Progress for All and the issue of progression has been at the heart of much of this term’s work in primary languages.

    Since primary languages became statutory in September 2014, we have developed a KS2 Languages Progression and Assessment model.  This has been designed to work alongside the ‘new approach to tracking pupil progress’ developed by Herts for Learning (so that it would feel familiar to teachers using this model in other curriculum areas) but also to work as a ‘standalone’ resource for tracking progression in languages across the key stage.  It also cross-references the Primary Languages Quality Mark  criteria for ‘achievement, assessment and recording’.

    This September will see the start of year four of statutory primary languages for those children who entered Year 3 in 2014.  As we enter year four, the question of what ‘substantial progress’ might look like (referenced in the Languages programme of study for KS2) is becoming increasingly important, as is how this might be evidenced.  The creative latitude offered by the programme of study, and of ‘life after levels’, allows a certain amount of freedom to schools in their approaches to the teaching of primary languages and issues such as assessment.  This new landscape for languages has allowed us to start to look at new and interesting ways to assess.  We have a long tradition of supporting informal classroom-based action research, through our practitioner-led Strategic Learning Networks for Languages supported by Herts for Learning, and so we decided to launch a small research project on assessment at KS2 called Assessment without Tears.

    Our project is essentially about helping primary language teachers to assess more easily and flexibly, in a way that enhances curriculum and pedagogy and that fosters a life-long love and learning of a language among pupils.  The main focus of our research has been finding ways to facilitate and aggregate regular formative assessment to track pupil progression.  The question of whether this is a more valid and accurate way of assessing progress in language learning (compared to a summative test model which may prioritise certain topic vocabulary at the expense of others or neglect the development of certain language skills) is one that we think is worth exploring.

    At our mid-way point in the project, we are seeing schools re-evaluating the content of their teaching and placing greater emphasis on high-frequency, highly transferable language and language structures rather than ‘topic’ vocabulary.  We are also seeing more emphasis on the development of certain language skills, such as reading and listening strategies, dictionary skills and communication repair strategies.  These are all highly transferable skills that will facilitate transition to KS3, even where a change of language occurs.  Later this term, we will be delivering an ‘Assessment without Tears for KS2 Languages’ training course (click here to book on).  We will also be delivering a new training course based on the Primary Languages Quality Mark which will provide practical pointers for teaching grammar, phonics and more in KS2 (book here).  Finally, in June we launch our new STEAM conference linking STEM, Arts and Languages in which we will showcase some of the work of our Strategic Learning Networks and our ‘Language Experiment’ project.  All courses and conferences can be booked via Herts for Learning online booking.

    We will be back soon with an update on our work in secondary languages.

    With best wishes for a relaxing break!

    Jackie Rayment

    Herts for Learning Languages Adviser

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