“Teachers make all the difference”.
So said Sanjit 20 years ago to his then teacher Ros Wilson. Having been immersed in education for more years than she cares to remember, as teacher, senior leader, advisor and inspector, now Ros is focusing on consultancy and writing. Her expertise in reading and writing, developed over many years whilst training teachers, moderating and assessing in Kirklees Local Authority, led to the development of Big Writing. Ros gives us a fascinating insight into how she gained a first experience of the use of a criterion scale in assessment.
The more Ros worked with it the more she realised they had a formative assessment system. She expands on the four toolkits emphasising the fourth – writer’s voice and style. The more she assessed and monitored assessment the more she realised this fourth toolkit could be broken down into four categories: VCOP (vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation) and this was years before any government had thought about SPAG!
Ros explains how Big Writing requires more assessment than the national requirements – but how and why it is done results in far less stress for both teachers and students. Ros fervently believes that in many subjects you can determine progress weekly, but that in writing the Government have got it wrong, and in her view this will have an adverse effect on standards in the years to come.
“You wouldn’t measure a dance or a piece of artwork with a tick or a cross. The sheer beauty requires more subtle assessment”.
In Big Writing students are required to write freely at least once a term, bringing together all they have learned in the term in a way that is encouraging creativity. Assessment is no longer scary, it’s just part of the usual routine. Ros claims the Big Writing way will raise outcomes between 3 and 7 levels in one year.
Ros believes the most important way to nurture a love for reading is for all children, up to the age of 7 and preferably beyond, to be read to last thing at night. This should be a favourite book, because it should be a pleasurable experience. And children should see adults reading for pleasure, sharing and discussing a favourite book.
As Sanjit said, ” I see it now”: teachers really do make the difference.