KS3 – SoW and Assessment Strategy

I’ve noticed a lot of chatter on Facebook lately about assessment at KS3 and about what to put into schemes of work / schemes of learning.

Since my department and I have spent a lot (a LOT!) of time over the last couple of years completely reworking all of the above I figured it wouldn’t do any harm to share it. It’s a team effort and includes some fantastic ideas and units for which I can take no credit at all. No warranty is given or implied and your mileage may vary!

If you want the resources with none of the reasoning or justification then just head on over to pi.mwclarkson.co.uk and download away. If you DO care about the justification (which I think it quite important, as it goes), then read on.

Thematic Units

For a long time we used to teach a half-term on spreadsheets, a half-term on databases, a half-term on image editing, etc. And the visit each topic again in maybe a year, maybe 18 months. This meant we could spend a good chunk of time focusing on one area, but the retention was poor.

We decided a little while ago to try more thematic units – so we have a unit about my Aunt Mabel who bought a zoo on a whim. She needs a spreadsheet to find out if she can afford to feed the animals, some image editing to create a gift voucher, a database for annual membership, etc.

When specifying the equipment needed for a new youth club the students design a floorplan, create a spreadsheet to track and adjust costs, write to their local MP, learn about networking and create a slideshow to convince the PTA to help fund it.

And so on – the key phrase for me is ‘little and often’. The disadvantage is that students don’t spend a big block of time looking deeply at the skills, so you need to remember to make sure to teach about slideshows and DTP skills, not just expect students to ‘know’ what good design looks like and what specific skills to use.

We’ve also gone for an approach that includes a fair bit of computer science (programming, binary, logic gates, algorithms) but also a lot of multimedia topics (mind maps, storyboards, image editing, comics, video editing, audio editing) and ‘traditional’ IT (spreadsheets, databases, posters and PowerPoints). This is partly because we have 3 routes at KS4 – GCSE CS, Cambridge Nationals Creative iMedia and GCSE ICT / vocational ICT to come, and also partly because we think (as a department) that our job is to help prepare students for life and for their future, not just an optional GCSE that not all will pursue.

Online vs Dead Tree submissions

Being a massive Moodler I’ve been an evangelist for online assessment for years. We’ve tried online discussions, wikis, self-marking quizzes, ePortfolios and much more. And, honestly, we never got it right.

When it comes to work scrutinies I was often tempted to drop a URL off in each box when SLT wanted the books, but ultimately I had to cave. And I admit it – the books are a better solution.

Each student gets an A4+ sized exercise book and they sometimes do work in there, but more often print off an assessed piece of work. It’s not ideal for animations, but you can include a screengrab which is usually enough to trigger a memory from circulating during the lessons and you can also encourage students to annotate or justify their work, demonstrating knowledge as well as skills. In addition, the kids can find their work and refer back to it easily. Having to negotiate a VLE once a week and expecting the kids to really understand the underlying structure isn’t as realistic as it might sound to those of us who use these systems multiple times a day and might well have computing / IT degrees.

It’s not perfect, but honestly I feel the books are the best solution I’ve used so far.

Regular Assessment / Deep Marking / WINS

The policy at my school is that we do a solid bit of marking every 5 lessons / 5 hours. This means that we don’t have to mark every piece of work, but that students are getting regular feedback throughout their studies.

The structure of the feedback has to be in the WINS format (What was good, Improved if, Next steps and then a Student response). I’ve heard of PENS in a number of schools which is very similar (Positives, Even better if, Next steps, Student response).

We also have a grading system that goes MEP – EP – BEP – UP (More than Expected Progress, Expected Progress, Below Expected Progress, UnderPerforming). This is printed on and highlighted.

Given that one of my colleagues will have 330 KS3 pupils next year we had to make the marking manageable – so we’ve produced one pre-populated WINS sheet for each unit with all of the likely comments written in and 3 differentiated questions for students to tackle that are designed to make students reflect on their work at different levels (think Bloom’s).

I wanted to avoid having students working on something for 5 lessons, then getting some feedback, then spending another lesson making improvements and resubmitting it. You end up in ever decreasing circles and lose valuable time for moving on – and with the ‘little and often’ curriculum we’ll be coming back to those skills again soon enough.

Tracking Progress / Assessment Without Levels

In order to better track progress all of the subject leaders at my place were tasked with describing the knowledge, skills and application that students would be expected to gain each term, all without using levels. These AWoL sheets are heavily skills focused for us and are broken down into the three strands of IT, Media and Computer Science. They relate directly to the unit WINS sheets and are easily attacked with a highlighter once a term.

In addition we have an overall tracking sheet with the 3 strands, each split into 2 (so IT has data handling and presenting information, Media has creativity and planning, CS has programming and technical understanding). By highlighting these at the same time as the termly sheets we can show overall progress.

It costs a bit in highlighters but saves a lot in blue, black, red, green and purple pen!

I’m not promising it’s perfect, and I would never claim this is the ‘right way to do it’ – but it’s what we’re doing and you’re welcome to use it.

If you do decide to adapt and improve it, please consider sharing and please give some credit to the team that helped put it together (Egglescliffe School Computing & ICT department, past and present).

A Programme of Study for ICT


Originally uploaded by Mark Brannan

Programme of Study
Medium Term Plan

It’s taken me ages to write this post, probably moreso than it took me to write the documents below – but anyone who has ever tried to make use of gained time will understand why.

With the official dis-application of the ICT Programme of Study (or PoS – and make what you will of that acronym…) schools have the freedom to teach what they want, how they want.

Some have seen that as a sign that ICT isn’t important and can be, at best farmed out to all of the other subjects, and and at worst just simply dropped without trace. This is, of course, incredibly short-sighted and probably likely to backfire. It’s true that Ofsted are focusing much more on numeracy and literacy, but if you listen to what the DfE are saying, their move to disapply the PoS is nothing to do with ICT not being important – quite the opposite.

People like CAS, BCS, the Royal Society, Microsoft and Google are all telling us, and telling those in power, that ICT isn’t doing everything it should (which is not the same as saying that ICT is no good). And so those in power are giving us an opportunity to do what we want. Not in the way that Mrs. C says “do want you want” when she’s in a strop, but in that positive, empowering way of saying “OK, you show me what you want to do and we’ll see where we go from there”.

In two years there will be a new, officially sanctioned PoS. One that will go beyond *just* using Microsoft Office and Flowol (I know that many people have been doing much more than that for years, but not because of the PoS, and it’s scary how many tales I’ve heard of schools that haven’t gone beyond that). What we do now will influence that PoS, so we need to try things out and push the boundaries a bit. Some stuff will work, some won’t, but that’s a part of education. Right?

Writing a PoS for my department was easy. Really easy It took me about an hour. Why? Well, largely because we’ve always treated the PoS with disdain. We’ve made sure we’ve ticked the right boxes, but we’ve treated it as a pretty low floor and pretty ugh done what we’ve wanted to anyway. Gove says we could have 11 year olds making simple 2D animations in a free program called Scratch? Our Y7s were writing Pong and Breakout clones years ago!

Along with that I’ve written what I have called a medium term plan. Now, don’t tell anyone, but I don’t really know the difference between a SoW and a MTP, but it’s a list of units we might do and how they will fit together to meet my draft PoS.

I think the two documents nicely lead through a 3-stranded curriculum, with digital literacy (using a computer on a day-to-day level) at the core and stretching out through creative skills and computing topics alike. There are a couple of notable omissions, specifically in the form of image and video editing. We do intend to teach those, but as the logistics can be tricky and the outcomes very risky we’ve not included them in the PoS – so there is no stick to beat us with if we fail.

This task is being emulated in lots of other places – check out ictcurric and digitalstudies for just two examples of collaborative SoW, but perhaps this might be a useful pair of documents for others.