Wading through the treacle: unpicking KS1 writing guidance

    Published: 18 December 2016

    Sabrina Wright is a Teaching and Learning Adviser for English at Herts for Learning

    After reading my colleague’s recent blog (Writing at ARE might be Simpler than you thought!), I found myself tempted to unpick the KS1 ARE exemplification materials in the same way.

    However, before I had the chance to do this I was alerted to another STA update to the Teacher assessment moderation: requirements for key stage 1. The document that was updated on 31st October is intended as a guide for schools and local authorities, but as I skimmed the pages I couldn’t help but feel that some of this information should have gone directly to KS1 teachers and may have not found its way there.  Section 5: Additional guidance for English writing seems to be more like the clarification document that was issued last year to schools and local authorities to summarise all the changes that had taken place.

    The first point in section 5 clarifies the STA’s position on what is considered to be independent writing and this is where I was already stumped (not a great start). It states ‘Writing is likely to be independent if it: has been independently edited and / or redrafted by the pupil. This may be in response to self, peer, or group evaluation…Writing is not independent if it has been: edited as a result of direct intervention by a teacher or other adult, for example where the pupil has been directed to change specific words for greater impact, or where incorrect or omitted punctuation has been indicated’.  No mention there of redrafting writing in response to a discussion with the teacher, which was previously stated in the clarification document.  I’m going to read between the lines here and assume that, because it is a statutory expectation for pupils to ‘make simple additions, revisions and corrections to their own writing by: evaluating their writing with the teacher and other pupils’ NC 2014, and because it mentions ‘direct intervention’ as a no go area rather than discussion, discussion with the teacher is still acceptable.

    It then goes on to clarify that ‘Writing is likely to be independent if it: is informed by clear learning objectives and limited success criteria which are not over detailed and do not over-aid pupils…Writing is not independent if it has been: supported by success criteria that are over-detailed and over-aid pupils’.  Well, I have had many a conversation with colleagues about this one and what success criteria might actually look like.  Mostly our discussions have been about how success criteria can either summarise the main teaching points, or how it can demonstrate the process which link directly to the learning intention.  Though our conversations have been a little vague, what we’ve always come back to is the importance of success criteria providing a scaffold and focus for pupils while they are engaged in the activity, and the importance of it as a basis for feedback and peer-/self-assessment.  You’ll have to read between the lines on this one I’m afraid; I’m still trying to.

    This was merely the beginning however. As I continued to read on, I found myself scratching my head yet again.  In section 5.2 the qualifiers (some, many and most) are defined again as they were before and then it mentions the statements in the interim TA framework that contain supplementary detail.  As before, the National Curriculum (NC) English programme of study should be referred to for exemplification of statements that are marked * . Then it states that for the statement about suffixes ‘evidence might include any of the suffixes referenced in the NC KS1 programme of study’, but the examples it gives are ‘–ment, –ness, –ful, –less, –ly*’. This led me to examine the KS1 exemplification materials. Across the collection, the following words were identified in the annotations for Sam, who is working at the expected standard:















    In fact, it states ‘Suffixes are added to spell longer words correctly, e.g. for inflection of verb endings (laughed; cheering), formation of adjectives (furry; fastest) and adverbs (really; suddenly).’ There is no evidence at all of the pupil adding the suffixes less and ness, and only one use of the suffix ment.  Therefore, on first glance the examples they have provided could be slightly misleading.  The exemplification materials demonstrate the suffixes s, es, ing, ed, er, est, ly, y and ful as evidence for working at age related expectations.  This of course makes much more sense as these are all more likely to appear in children’s writing more naturally as they have been focused on these throughout Year 1 & 2.

    The same section then goes on to explain about the bracketed detail. It turns out, where there is a bracket with commas, such as the statement about the use of sentences with different forms, evidence must include all of those given, as appropriate, across a range of writing.  However, where there is the use of a forward slash to separate examples, this indicates that evidence must include some – but not necessarily all – of those given, across a range of writing.  This of course is referring to the statement about conjunctions, so just to clarify – some- but not necessarily all conjunctions of those given could be used, across a range of writing.  Again, this took me straight back to the exemplification materials with my highlighter at the ready.  It states ‘Both co-ordination and subordination are used confidently to extend ideas, add detail and give variety to sentence structure’. At this point, I thought I should have a look more closely at exactly which conjunctions the STA were referring to for Sam (working at the expected standard).  To summarise, he basically uses and, but and because mostly with the odd if. Or was not used at all, when was used as an adverb not a conjunction, and that was used once to provide further explanation. This sparing use of the range of conjunctions made perfect sense to me as including them all across a range of writing would lead to writing that would make no sense at all.

    I skimmed the handwriting section, which is as before. Pupils can be awarded the ‘working towards the expected standard’ or ‘working at the expected standard’ if their writing does not evidence one, or more than one, of the handwriting statements. I then went on to read section  5.4 that mentions the word lists examples of common exception words found in the NC English Appendix 1 for year 1 and year 2, and that ‘though these examples are non-statutory and pupils are not required to evidence all of the given words across a range of writing. Where listed words are used, some must be spelt correctly for pupils ‘working towards the expected standard’, many must be spelt correctly for those ‘working at the expected standard’ and most must be spelt correctly to meet the ‘working at greater depth within the expected standard’ requirement.’ The common exception words the children use will depend on the phonics scheme delivered in your school, but this too made perfect sense to me that it might vary from school to school.

    In all honesty, I was quite surprised – and pleased, after wading through the treacle of the KS1 exemplification materials and moderation guidance that some of the expectations for working at the expected standard are a bit simpler than I thought, or even than the examples imply. That is of course not including the exclamatory sentence!

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