Every year, Key Stage Two Writing creates a furore on social media. There are those who almost accuse schools who do better at writing than reading of cheating and those who despair at the inconsistencies created by different interpretations of the official guidance for moderation.
This year, the arguments seem to have started earlier than ever as different areas hold moderation training sessions and the difference in how the guidance is implemented seem to be further apart than ever. It does seem to defy belief that what should be a simple assessment system is open to such widely different interpretations that it cannot possibly be a level playing field.
There seem to be two different reactions to this situation. One is a call for formal assessment of writing to be scrapped completely, the other is for a return of the old writing task that was done in Sats week. However, I firmly believe that both of these reactions are wrong and will lead to a reduction in the quality of writing and the teaching of it.
Firstly, I truly believe that if there is no formal assessment of writing at KS2, then it will devalue it completely. If there is no assessment of writing, how many schools can honestly say that they will give it the emphasis that it currently receives. It will be all too easy to concentrate on Reading and Grammar where success is visible and good results will move the school up the league table. Being able to score well on the Grammar paper however, is no indication of being able to write well. Just because someone knows all of the rules does not mean that they can use them effectively and leaves no place for imagination and creativity. Having a Grammar test as the only assessment of how well a Year 6 pupil can write is a really bad idea in my opinion.
The second reaction of wanting a return to the old writing task where it was completely unseen until the day of the test I think is also wrong. Theresa Cremin writes in the Tes about how important it is that we give children enough opening time, discussion time and time to generate ideas. This can be done in the classroom without any cheating or bending the rules. The children can share their ideas, plan and adapt and redraft their writing. All of these are things that we should be encouraging but cannot take place if the writing is a surprise subject and has to be completed inside an hour.
It takes me ages to develop ideas for lessons or writing and I really sympathise with children who cannot write to order. How many of us could produce a good piece of writing on a random subject in 50-60 minutes?
I readily accept that the current system is flawed and needs fixing. However I truly believe that it should be fixed and not just abandoned. The current system allows teachers to give their pupils writing tasks that will enthuse them and enable them to write to the best of their ability. My class love to write and I love to create opportunities for them to do so. I would hate to have that devalued.