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Assertive Mentoring…

Today I was very lucky to hear Peter Boddy (Head of Red Hall Primary School, Darlington) speak about the impact his school has seen using Assertive Mentoring. I’ll leave you to research Assertive Mentoring yourself if it sounds of interest to you. However, it was in the first session this morning that he addressed ‘typical’ patterns of uneven progress throughout KS2 in Reading, Writing and Maths. I have no data to back his claims up but he presented ‘typical’ progress as something that might look like this:

Year 3 – 1 point progress (0.5 sub level)
Year 4 – 2 points progress (1 sub level)
Year 5 – 3 points progress (1.5 sub level)
Year 6 – 6 points progress( 3 sub levels)
**Not the Heathfield picture by the way! But a ‘typical’ picture presented by Peter**

He questioned why this was. He questioned why a Year 6 teacher can do this and whether it was because the Year 6 teacher knew how much hinged on the results. He challenged us to think about how much emphasis is placed on the end of Key Stage 2 SATs. The fact that the Head, Senior Leadership Team, Governors, SIP, OFSTED, local community and parents all scrutinise these results with a fine tooth comb, make judgements, decisions on action and place you in a league table make Year 6 a stressful place to be. What Peter asked us was if the Year 3,4 and 5 teachers knew that their results would be scrutinised in the same way, would progress be different? Would teachers in these year groups who were having limited impact reflect more about strategies in their classroom? Now I have no idea if this ‘typical’ picture is a ‘typical’ picture like Peter claimed, however, I am interested in your thoughts/views on this.



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  1. Claire Lotriet
    May 28, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

    I have to say, that I don’t know if this is the picture in my school, but I’m not sure what to think of it. I can see how being in year 6 can be a stressful place to be and if I were to be moved into year 6 in September, I think I would feel a different kind of pressure that I haven’t experienced in year 4. However, I would argue I’m constantly reflecting on the impact of the strategies I use and in pupil progress meetings we look at progress data, analyse it, discuss what we’re doing that’s working and what we need to do next. My results are scrutinised, but arguably not by as many different groups as KS2 SATs results are. Still, I’m really very proud of the progress made by my class this year so far.

    My worry is that this is sounding like an argument for more testing and league tables…?

    • David Mitchell
      May 28, 2011 at 7:16 pm #

      Thanks for commenting Claire!

      The argument presented was one where a school had to disseminate this pressure through the school. A process or a system in a school where non negotiables are set and where teachers are supported by class support and dialogue. The people presenting stated that some schools rotate the responsibilty of teaching Y6 to all their teachers on a rolling ‘every two years’ system.

      At no point in the day was more testing presented as a way forward. However, the whole Assertive Mentiring process is based around ‘doing something’ with the data on a day to day basis. It was argued that data about pupils was shelved by teachers and brought out every know and then. If a school had a system where only useful data was collected , where useful data was used each day, where useful data was shared with the pupils each day, where useful data was updated by both teachers and pupils each day then this kind of system would impact the pupils the most.

  2. Pie Corbett
    June 7, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    Peter is quite right. This is the pattern in most schools across the country. The year 6 teacher makes most progress because their is a clear and public goal but also because they are the clearest about assessment – over the years, they have acquired the ‘rules of the game’ – they know the criteria and therefore teach in a driven and focussed manner. Effective schools set up accurate and fair ways of tracking progress across each year. This information is reviewed at least once a term and it leads to direct action – setting class and individual targets, targetting extra support, pupil interviews, etc. Intervention programmes are constantly customised and adapted to ensure that those who can make sufficient progress. ….. and yes, the suggestion of swapping teachers into y6 is a good one. If the y6 teacher moves to y3 then they will be a better y3 teacher because they have a clear idea of where the children need to be and a strong sense of the urgency. None of this means reductive teaching – if you are teaching reading and writing in a creative and lively manner that is focussed on helping children make progress then this will mean high attainment. Good teaching = good progress = higher attainment. I am not sure why slow progress just keeps on happening in some schools in some year groups – surely this is telling the Head and teacher something about how effective the teaching is/is not?????

  3. paulmartin42
    June 11, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    I feel I am from another planet (indeed I am not in England) since I cannot, and I have looked up AM to if that helped, tune into this conversation. My feedback is that there, would appear, to be over focus on some unclear numbers game. Cutting to the chase .. the high management overhead in modern education seem to generate its own conformity culture where better does not equate to useful and meddling means mediocrity.

  4. Peter Boddy
    September 20, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    I fully recognise that this is an uncomfortable truth, but it is a truth non-the-less. For years I had no idea that this was a general truth as we all operate within our own bubble. External pressures mean we are more geared to ‘spin’ than openly addressing the obvious questions. It is only through talking with hundreds of headteachers (many from high performing schools) that I have learned what I said to be widespread, though possibly not universal.
    If Pie Corbett agrees then I feel justified in making the point. I would be very interested to hear how many Y6 teachers disagree.

  5. Havelock Vetinari
    November 9, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    Sorry I am late to the chat but we have only just heard of the Assertive Mentoring scheme. It is interesting that this pattern is shown as I have seen something similar but not quite so extreme at the lower Key Stage 2 end. My question is whether the fact that some Year 6 classes spend a lot of the year focusing only on reading, writing and maths has an impact. Often the results are a direct impact of taking practice SATs tests from Christmas and knowing how to take the SATs tests at the end of the year. If Year 3, 4 and 5 were only concerned with the results in reading, writing ad maths and were allowed to ‘come off timetable’ for a lot of the year so that they can pass a single test on a given day in May, then I am sure that results would be improved as well. Passing a test at the end of Year 6 is not always a true indication of a child’s ability as is proven when they go to high school and they disregard what the Year 6 SATs results are and complete a baseline test in the first few weeks. I do disagree with the fact that seems to be presented here that teachers in Year 3, 4 and 5 are ‘hiding’ and are not pulling their weight.

  6. Mrs Deborah Kirkham
    December 8, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    My youngest child is in Y2 and his school has just started AM. I have mixed views on this issue I can obviously see the benefits but I feel too much pressure is being applied and the level of homework for a six year old is excessive. He brings home work every night except Wednesdays and the stress levels are through the roof we are not convinced this project is working.

  7. Simon Walters
    May 16, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    As you say, the real pressure is on in Y6 and extreme lengths are gone to to achieve targets. Some schools are using spreadsheet tracking tools to try to obtain even progression throughout the school but, at the end of the day, its the KS1-KS2 difference/absolute KS2 results that count as any other “discrepencies” will be let-go by heads/OFSTED. My own personal life educational experiences within my family (inc brothers/sisters/children) is that children do not progress evenly but progress in spurts.

  8. Julia Skinner (@theheadsoffice)
    May 16, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    Missed this the first time round!
    Year 6 teachers have training to know how to assess more closely because as we all know everything is riding on the last four and a half terms to get those results.
    I think it is really good practise for all year groups to have the training so that a) they have an appreciation of what it is like for yr.6 b) the pressure of the final results are shared across the school and not just placed on the shoulders of yr.6 c) having the training will give all teachers the opportunity to see the child as an individual and plan work appropriately.
    Assessment is about progress but we all know that it can & is hijacked by tests!

  9. Peteyeomans
    May 16, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    I’m not sure if there might be some developmental stuff going on….the imperative of the end in sight for the kids too and the feeling of top dog through being the oldest and the confidence that brings.

    The “education” I received through teaching y6 in terms of knowing what good looked like was invaluable when I returned to y3. I did have higher expectations and tried to get the children to reach higher.

    Data is a red herring, know your kids, know what they need and DO SOMETHING useful, rather than Put up another display

  10. Rob
    May 17, 2012 at 7:23 am #

    I like the materials I have viwed on assertive mentoring.
    It is very much like how teachers teach in upper KS2 particularly the detailed feedback.
    When getting ready for SATs etc teachers review writing with the pupils, they carry out an indepth analysis and model, share what is needed to improve. This is done throughout the year. I personally do it with my year 5 classes too and this also accelerates progress in writing. I am unsure if this happens further down school in many schools. Do children know what they need to do to improve in Y2 or Y3?

    The intensity of UKS2 means that teachers are looking for opportunities for extended writing across the currciulum. For example writing diaries in role of historical character, writing persuasive letters to the head in PSHE etc.

    In UKS2 we get more practise at levelling work and children as SLT wants to know this data. SLT wants to know how many children will be getting a level 4 at the end of KS2 – my last head wanted termly updates from Y5 onwards but didnt want to know what they were in the lower year groups.


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