Paperless APP

Imagine APP without the paperwork! Incerts 2013 is a secure online tool for teachers to record what their pupils have learned. The individual skills that make up each National Curriculum subject, and also the Assessment Focuses of APP, are presented on the screen as "ladders" that run up through the National Curriculum Levels. Teachers can see each pupil's next steps and they simply make ticks as the pupil makes progress towards them.

Working online does more than just save trees: it saves a lot of time as well. The trick is to record the kind of data that can be used over and over again. As teachers record individual pupils' strengths and weaknesses, Incerts can show them which other pupils have the same—invaluable for planning. This same data is also detailed enough to support report writing and, since teachers record against APP Guidelines and National Curriculum Attainment Targets divided into Levels, is a sound basis for measuring pupil progress consistently in all subjects.

Incerts supports an open and democratic approach to assessment. Not only can teachers access Incerts whenever, and from wherever, they want to, but they also have access to all the assessment data in the school. Teachers are encouraged to discuss and moderate their judgements, and to take responsibility both for the assessments they make and for the progress measures and targets derived from them. When teacher assessment is principled, moderated and trusted, schools needn't rely on narrow snapshots like optional SATs.

Precision Progress Tracking

The vast majority of schools track their pupils' progress year-on-year, sometimes term-on-term, using abc sub-levels (2c, 2b, 2a...). A little analysis shows that this measurement scale is hopelessly inadequate for either task. If someone records that Jane moved from 2b to 2a last year or last term, she might have made the tiny jump from the top end of 2b to the bottom end of 2a, or she might have made the huge jump from the bottom of 2b all the way to the top of 2a. We cannot say which! Technically, the margin of error of the abc scale makes it unsuitable for measuring progress over any time period shorter than three years.

Since teachers record against individual skills within each subject, Incerts will look at several "steps" on several "ladders" when it calculates a pupil's level. Incerts can express a pupil's progress as a "fine level", with a margin of error small enough to measure progress reliably year-on-year or even term-on-term. Therefore it's possible to differentiate between pupils who are making some, albeit slow, progress from pupils who are making none. It's also easy to spot, within the first term, those pupils who've made an unusually slow start to the school year.

Most schools struggle to measure their pupils' progress in their Reception year: only Incerts has a framework that's detailed enough to assess pupils at the beginning of this year and yet directly comparable with their EYFS Profile assessment at the end of this year. This framework was developed over several years in partnership with the Sure Start team of Slough LA.

Reports Of The Future

It's clear that detailed teacher assessments of individual pupils can—in our opinion should—be re-used for writing reports to their parents. Incerts goes much further, adding information about each pupil's next steps and targets for future years. Indeed, this has proved so popular with parents that some of our schools have started producing short mid-year reports to parents containing only these targets. Since Incerts is an online system, it only needs a few "links" to make these available to parents via the school website or Learning Platform.

Reports must, of course, be useful to parents: both in what they present and in how they present it. Although Incerts is re-using assessments that are often phrased in technical language, it does translate phrases like "...polysyllabic words previously unencountered..." into something like "longer words she has not seen before" to make more natural-sounding prose. As well as this "translation" into readable English, automatic translation into Welsh and other languages is also available.

We regard assessment and reporting as two sides of the same coin, but we would not describe Incerts as a report writer. It produces Word documents that are, say, 80% finished reports. Teachers may then make adjustments, adding their personal touches, before the documents go out to parents: not only do they save time, but they're left with the nicest part of the task.