It’s the most crazy time of the year…

By Gary Alexander, Deputy Head Teacher

Without a doubt, the last few weeks of term in the run up to Christmas are by far the busiest and the craziest of the whole year. Pulling together the nativity plays and carol concerts while trying to keep pupils focused is no mean feat… and given it’s also a key assessment period, it’s not surprising that the workload pressure is full on.

Luckily for us, we made the move to online assessment for reading and maths a while ago, which means the days of processing spreadsheets and cross checking criterion are over. By using Star Reading and Star Maths, the data collection and analysis is all done for us (which helps to ease the admin burden and gives us more time to do fun Christmassy things).

Plus, because the assessments are completed online in about 20 minutes, it’s not a high stakes test experience for the pupils (a real bonus during ‘silly season’, when getting them to just sit still is a challenge).

But it’s not about collecting data for the sake of it. It’s what we do with it that counts. The speed at which the results can be meaningfully exported from Star in an easy to interpret and visual format means that we can hold a progress meeting before Christmas.

The data visualisation within Star also means that you don’t have to be a data scientist to understand what the numbers are actually telling you. All of our teachers can see at a glance which pupils are falling behind as well as those who are excelling.

Using the Star dashboard as the basis for a collaborative discussion, we look at the progress that individuals and different cohorts are making – and put a plan in place for how we need to adjust provision. Crucially, we have this plan in place before we break up for Christmas… so when we return in January, the only thing left to do before starting the new term is to take down the decorations!

So, to all my fellow teachers out there, enjoy this special time of the year. It might be gruelling from a workload perspective, but we’re now counting days, not weeks, until the end of term. Finally, good luck with your nativity plays, carol concerts and productions… because in the New Year we have the consultation on the Ofsted framework to look forward to (did somebody mention workload?)!

Gary Alexander
Deputy Head Teacher

Gary Alexander has been working in education in the UK and abroad for 17 years.  He is currently Deputy Head Teacher at Battle & Langton CE Primary School in East Sussex; a large and successful school where he leads on teaching learning and assessment.  He is interested in all things educational, but has a particular interest in making use of technology to reduce teacher workload and enable them to spend more time thinking about and improving their practice.

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